The GOAT Celebrates Belated Grand Opening After Three Exciting Years

By Joshua Cawthorpe, January 12, 2024

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The GOAT in Panyu is having its official Grand Opening Party on Saturday. And surely that has you asking yourself, "What's that you say? Didn't they open three years ago?"

We found ourselves asking the same question, so we sat down with Rob Turnbull to inquire about this gross miscalculation.


Image via the GOAT

For those of us who live under a rock, The GOAT opened in 2020 in the bowels of the newly minted Sihai City Commercial Plaza at Hanxi Changlong metro station in Panyu. The room is enormous with a long island bar separating two halves into a bowl of stadium-esque to optimize the line of sight to South China's (probably) biggest TV screens. Each parallel screen stretches more than six meters down the center of the space, making it the optimal location for everything from the Super Bowl to Wimbledon to massive multiplayer Mario Kart. The GOAT has carved out its intended niche in the city, far beyond the local Panyu hoodlums, to become the destination for major sporting events, live music, and special events.


Image via the GOAT

Turnbull forayed into the bar business back in 2011 with the opening of the Brew. Today the original location is no more, but there is still a location open in Shenzhen, but it's not his main focus. "It's good to see the brand is still rocking," Turnbull mentions, but adds that he only maintains a modest share and a mostly silent role. His portfolio of active businesses also includes Flamingo in Panyu and the award-winning Mexican restaurant Bandido's.

We ask Turnbull why he took on a project as ambitious as The GOAT.

"By that time, the Brews were all gone (in Guangzhou), and I felt the city needed a bigger, better sports bar. In my mind, The GOAT is The Brew on steroids — it's all the things I couldn't do with the Brew."


Image via the GOAT

Having an established customer base seems like an advantage, so we wonder why such a well-known brand wasn't able to metamorphose into the bar Turnbull envisioned. "I guess people had an idea of what the Brew was, and, even though we had TVs and steaks, it was known for burgers. We didn't even have a burger on the menu at The GOAT for the first six months. I waited until I had a chef who could make a really great smash burger before we added it to the menu. Now we're known as having a whole western slash American-style menu."


Image via the GOAT

The GOAT started construction back in November of 2019, without the slightest notion of what lay ahead. It was slated to be the first business in the cavernous multi-storey eastern cenote of Sihai City Commercial Plaza. By June of 2020, things had calmed down, and they hosted their first event — a sort of soft opening for the staff of the Canadian International School of Guangzhou. Turnbull recalls that they didn't even have signage that night. The guests entered through a makeshift door in the plywood facade.

READ MORE: Meet the Organization Serving Underprivileged Students in China 

Without dwelling on the events of that year, Turnbull does give the mall their flowers by adding that they were extremely cooperative and understanding, allowing The GOAT to pay almost no rent as they navigated the murky waters of that fateful spring.


Image via the GOAT

Super Bowl 2021 marked a turning point as hundreds of guests traveled from all corners of the GBA to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trounce the Kansas City Chiefs — oh, what a simpler time. The GOAT embraced the sunrise kickoff and offered an extravagant breakfast buffet in the back section of the bar, with more TVs, of course, so no crucial interceptions were missed while dousing pancakes with maple syrup.

The Super Bowl primed them for the Champions League which, Turnbull adds, was rough on the staff who had to be scheduled for 3 am games. The Euros brought solid crowds, but Turnbull was surprised by the lackluster enthusiasm for the Olympics. In the forefront of his mind was the World Cup.

esports-and-soccer-split-GOAT.jpgImage via the GOAT

The 2022 World Cup, being hosted in Qatar, was the fuel in the fire to get The GOAT and established running in time. Being only a quarter of the way around the planet, the games could be aired live in China during prime drinking hours: dinner, evening, and midnight and 3 am.


Image via the GOAT

Restrictions on indoor dining were lifted on the first full day of the tournament and, Turnbull remembers, "the next three days were insane. I couldn't keep enough beer in stock and by the second day the staff were wrecked — totally run down. I thought I would need to bring in more replacement staff." But then a bittersweet fate made the choice for him, and indoor dining restrictions came back into effect.


Image via the GOAT

The crowd of spectators for tennis matches has surprised Turnbull, but the most unsuspected showstopper has been e-sports. Both the major events that The GOAT has aired have brought a full house.

"The most recent one was in South Korea and there was a Champion's League soccer game at the same time. Half the room was watching e-sports (blue) and the other half on soccer in the green glare."


Image via the GOAT

But still, with three years of history at The GOAT, how can we just now be having a Grand Opening?

"Because we never had one," Turnbull responds with a grin. "It's kind of cheeky in a way, but it's not just the grand opening. It's the grand opening, first-year anniversary, second-year anniversary, and third-year anniversary. We're just gonna knock out four parties in one night. It's gonna be action-packed throughout the night and just a big celebration. It's really a big thank you to our supporters. Right now I have a guest list of 160, but a lot of people have already left Guangzhou and we'll be sad they can't join us. Especially the people that supported us in hard times. When we could only take away and delivery, people still ordered pizzas and wings, burgers and beer — they really kept the doors open. Really it's been an amazing outpouring of support."

goal-GOAT.jpgImage via the GOAT

So there you have it. The GOAT celebrates a hat-trick of anniversaries and its official Grand Opening on Saturday, January 13. There are a small handful of spots left for what could be the party of the year if you're quick-fingered enough to reach out to Rob Turnbull at The GOAT by scanning the QR code below.


[Cover image via the GOAT]

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