This Day in History: Shanghai's Yongkang Lu Bar Street Shut Down

By Bridget O'Donnell, July 9, 2021

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On July 11, 2016, the mayor of Xuhui vowed to shut down Shanghai's most infamous bar street.

'Yongkang Lu Bars Must be Eliminated,' read a bold headline atop page A5 of the Xinmin Evening News

Yongkang Lu bars must be eliminated

The statement itself was made by Bao Bingzhang, mayor of Xuhui district. He said at a press conference that day that Yongkang Lu was originally open for food markets, but that the area was never authorized to open any bars. Bao proposed to close down all the bars, especially those close to nearby schools. 

Bao said the city would begin looking into taking action over the summer of 2016:

"Commercial construction is not supposed to be destroying building structures, so starting this July... 10 streets are being put under new regulations. Both Yongkang Lu and Jiashan Lu will be included in comprehensive renovations, which will require owners to recover original house structures, adjust or cancel street businesses, as well as stopping alcohol businesses.

"We must pass legislation to make the costs of breaking the law higher. The next step is about honest management, which would be connected with personal credit/reputation."

And thus kickstarted a series of events that would eventually lead to the culling of the infamous bar street. (Dongping Lu, Yongfu Lu and plenty of other popular spots would soon follow suit).

News of the shutdown spread fast among Shanghai's expat community, and even inspired a parody video:

Initially, Shanghai residents were told that only bars without the proper licensing must go. Then, the first round of eviction notices were sent out by uniformed policemen in late July.

Eviction notices Yongkang Lu

By early August, bottles began flying as cops began the crackdown. No one — not even Big Movie — was safe.

Yongkang Lu

Yongkang Lu shutdown

Yongkang Lu Shutdown

These days, a few venues still stand, but overall the street is much quieter than it was in its heyday. Displaced YKL establishments made their exodus to various spots around the city, with many finding a new home in Found 158, AKA the crater formerly known as Datong Mill.

READ MORE: Yongkang Lu Photography Contest Winners

Looking back, it seems like YKL was probably doomed from the beginning, having received plenty of negative attention in the press. Initially a vegetable market, it was renovated to become an "art street" in 2010. But as new establishments (including bars) began opening up, the street became rowdier. In 2013, the street made international headlines after local residents began pouring buckets of water on noisy patrons. The incident led to an agreement between residents and the venue owners to close down all businesses each night by 10pm. Then there were the occasional (and mysterious) missing chairs.

From local market to buzzing bar street, Yongkang Lu has undergone a series of dramatic changes in the last decade. Perhaps the summer of 2016 was the most defining moment in its evolution.

READ MORE: The Evolution of Yongkang Lu in Photos


For more This Day in History stories, click here.

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