When it comes to partying, Beijing residents are spoilt for choice nowadays. The bars of Sanlitun and Guomao show a glitzy side of the capital. Meanwhile, some of the city’s famous hutong (alleyways) have also become party-going hubs.
Located in Fangjia Hutong, Dongcheng district, BBB Bar is relatively new on the Beijing party scene. What used to be a small tattoo parlor has now become a party hotspot with rocking music and DJs.
The story of how this place went from being a small hangout to a growing part of the Beijing nightlife scene is indeed intriguing. MusicDish China sat down with BBB Bar’s founders to find out more.
Let’s start with the obvious question. What inspired you to open BBB Bar?
Not many people know that BBB was initially a small tattoo shop in the heart of Gulou Dajie. It wasn’t long until that became a spot between friends and peers to hangout, and as our “family” got bigger and more versatile, BBB started to become more than a tattoo parlor. It became our living room.
In less than a year, parties were being held weekly and subsequently, shut down by neighbors and police. Piercings and hairstyling services started being offered. In no time at all, we had to look for something ‘Bigger, Better and Bolder.’
As COVID hit, we thought it was our chance to bring BBB to the next level. We never thought BBB would take off like it did. We were really just looking for a bigger living room to keep pursuing our passions and to hang out.
Tell us something about the different personalities of the founder and how they are reflected in the club.
What’s great about BBB is that, as a collaborative space, our founders don’t have to express themselves through the club. Some have followed their passion as tattoo artists, hairstylists, mixologists, graphic designers, DJs or record collection curators. We feel that this diversity of talent and passion is a huge part of what gives BBB its unique feel.
We've noticed that BBB’s programming is quite different from what you might find at other clubs. You seem to veer from the standard and take a few risks. How do you approach programming a night? What are the factors you consider in the acts and DJs that you book?
We are glad to hear that. As much as we want and try to do something new, promoters and DJs from all over Beijing and China contact us to book their events at BBB.
We are all new to the scene so we try to learn from the local artists to discover the perfect formulas for the club and new sounds. In general, we try to keep our events groovy with disco, house, techno or hip-hop. There are many electronic sounds that aren’t very common to Beijing’s nightlife. Our next step will be to bring all of those to the capital.
Even as club owners, we try to keep in mind what a DJ’s priority should be: the crowd. We see, listen and feel what our crowds like and try to give them what they want.
Elaborating on the prior question, what does a typical night at BBB look like? What feelings and emotions do you want to leave with the audience at the end of the night?
We want people to feel, as we said before, not at home, but in a friend’s living room in a warehouse in Europe, where each room represents something different.
We do our best to greet every single party-goer that comes to BBB, not just clubbers. We have a very diverse clientele and we don’t want them to feel any distance between the staff and the customers. We try our best to act like hosts towards our audience.
Of course, BBB must be your favorite venue. But, what are the other venues (live house, clubs etc.) that are your go-to places?
Some of us are new to clubbing. Others have been clubbing for almost their entire lives. For us, it’s not really a matter of the club. We choose our nights out according to the music and line-up.
Dada was always a go-to destination after a work-night in the first BBB. Wigwam is where we started discussing opening BBB Bar. Meanwhile, MCLAB makes us feel like we are traveling to a warehouse party in Europe.
We don’t have favorite spots. We go to different clubs for different occasions, but those are probably the ones that hold a special place in our hearts.
Are there clubs outside Beijing that influenced how you designed and run BBB? What are your favorites?
From the beginning, we tried not to get inspiration from other venues, especially other venues in Beijing or China. We did not have specific venues in mind. At BBB, there is a bit of everything from everywhere.
The sense of a living room like Farbfernseher (Berlin); the friendly environment of Zhu Bar (Tokyo); the funky grooves of Dalston Super Store (London) and House of Yes (NYC); the retro TVs like Killer Kitchen (Milan); and the record store like Fred, Ral 8022 and Santeria (Milan).
The outside patio space seems to be an important extension of the club. Was this a conscious decision when you renovated the venue?
That patio was and, to some extent, still is a mess. We had to find a solution to make it pretty, cozy and tropical while hiding stuff that we are not allowed to clear.
The patio was a big success, but also the cause of many new issues that we never faced before: neighbors (we face them almost every day, though through the patio we met some angry new ones), rain, heat and permission for events. We have solved most of them and we are already planning new events before the summer ends.
Tell us more about Porco Disco vinyl record shop? What are some of your favorite places to shop for music in China?
Beijing has a fantastic, well established and ever-expanding group of record shops.
However, having said that, we have had some less than positive experiences, such as buying singles that cost more than a week’s salary, digital re-releases of classic albums (completely pointless to own on vinyl) and even record stores where we weren’t allowed to listen to the music.
With that in mind, what we try to bring to the table with Porco Disco is a record corner (rather than a proper store). It’s cheap, relaxed, DJ-friendly (towards professional and fresh DJs) and you can listen to whatever you want. You can even sip a cocktail whilst digging through our eclectic collection.
We believe vinyls are meant to be played, shared, sampled and edited, not hung on a wall or left to collect dust.
You’ve partnered with Side Street to offer a menu of goodies on-site. Tell us more about how that came about?
Side Street has always been good friends and great supporters. When we partnered up together, it was the first time any of us had done something like what we were doing at BBB. It was the first time we had a kitchen and the first time they worked in a club.
We all had the same vision for the future but many things didn’t go as planned. BBB ended up being more of a nightclub rather than a bar. That means crazy timetables and many weekdays without events.
We decided we would take a break from that partnership with a view to work together again in the future. Side Street are still beloved friends. They make our favorite burgers.
You can find BBB Bar at the following address:
No. 46, Fangjia Hutong, Dongcheng district, Beijing.
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[All images via BBB Bar]