Heaven Supermarket Pub in Beijing Photo: VCG
About a week ago, Beijing nightlife lovers would not have predicted that their Heaven Supermarket Bar would soon be known throughout Beijing, not because of its affordable prices, wide variety of drinks and easily accessible stalls, but due to a cluster of COVID -19 infections.
From June 9, the name Heaven Supermarket Bar began to appear frequently in daily epidemiological surveys of infected people released by the Beijing government. At that time, Beijing was emerging from the shadow of an epidemic that had lasted more than a month and had not reported any new cases at the community level for several days. Then Heaven Supermarket Bar came to prominence.
Beijing health authorities said the new outbreak, with Heaven Supermarket Bar as the main point of transmission, was a continuation of the previous outbreak that started in April and resulted from undetected and insidious transmission. What most Beijingers hadn’t anticipated was how quickly the reignited fire spread to 14 of the city’s 16 districts. In five days, a total of 228 infections in more than 100 communities were reported, of which 180 visited Heaven supermarket, four were staff and 44 were associated with bargoers and staff. More than 10,000 people have been determined to be close contacts with the outbreak.
Surprised by the significant impact of the outbreak at Heaven Supermarket Bar, Beijingers also discovered during the daily COVID-19 briefings that people from different walks of life drove through the city, from the suburbs to the bar, in the middle of the night. What’s so special about this bar, dubbed the “dummies’ haven” and “Beijing after-party?” Many people ask.
Located in Sanlitun, the busiest part of Beijing’s Chaoyang district, Heaven Supermarket Bar is part of one of the city’s most famous bar streets. The 24-hour bar has regained its popularity by attracting a younger demographic hungry for social interaction during heightened COVID-19 restrictions.
According to On The Road Shop, a popular online publisher, Heaven Supermarket Bar in Sanlitun is no stranger to young Beijingers, and for a while the “poor loser drinkers” would go and sit there for a while. “Heaven Supermarket Bar sells all kinds of liquor and tobacco, such as spirits, cigarettes, Cuban cigars, hookah and huge chocolate bars imported from all over the world.”
Heaven Supermarket Bar was born in 2008. In fact, it started as a convenience store, with a focus on foreign liquors. Later it became a bar, while maintaining the supermarket format.
According to On The Road Shop, the owner of Heaven Supermarket is something of a Chinese dreamer. It all started as a kiosk in Sanlitun where, by chance, he met foreign friends who gave him tobacco. He quickly opens the deal with his friend’s connections and gains a reputation. “Like countless migrant workers in this city, he dared not think of having his own home business in Sanlitun back then, doing business with foreigners.”
Heaven Supermarket Bar’s biggest customers are young people. When night falls, many young people from ordinary families converge on the bar to open a bottle of affordable beer.
A Beijing girl in her twenties, surnamed Chen, told the Global Times that she often went to Heaven Supermarket Bar with her friends during her college years. “Heaven Supermarket Bar is different from other bars in Beijing, and we can relate to it.”
Chen pointed to Heaven Supermarket Bar’s combined bar and supermarket format. “Several imported wines are put on the shelves for pick-up. This self-serve format is more appealing than the à la carte format,” she said, adding that “for consumers, it has a particularly down-to-earth overall style. down”. .”
Chen added that Heaven Supermarket Bar offers a wide variety of wines and beers and often introduces new products, which makes it appealing to people.
Another former Heaven Supermarket Bar regular reveler, Zhao Fan (pseudonym), told the Global Times that he and his friends like the bar because of its great location and lower minimum drink.
“Usually on weekends, bars around Sanlitun have a minimum spend requirement of 3,000 ($444) to 5,000 ($740) yuan per table,” Zhao said. “Such requirements do not exist at Heaven Supermarket Bar. Also, it is not necessary to book in advance to reserve a stall.”
Heaven Supermarket Bar’s regular revelers are working-class or younger students, Chen said. “The customers at Heaven Supermarket Bar don’t seem to be the particularly high-spending type. It’s usually a large group of young friends getting together.”
In recent years, however, the appeal of Heaven Supermarket Bar, once Beijing’s most prestigious bar, has slowly waned.
“In the past, Heaven Supermarket Bar was considered a bar with a better environment, less noisy and more suitable for a small gathering of a few close friends,” Chen said, adding that “in recent years, it has become more plus like a nightclub, with heavy bass music all night long. Friends who go together can’t hear each other while talking.
Chen recalls an experience she had at Heaven Supermarket Bar. She and her friends witnessed a physical altercation after 11 p.m. that left one person bleeding. Eventually his friends overpowered the assailant and called the police as the bar did nothing to settle the dispute.
“There have been more and more incidents like this at Heaven Supermarket Bar,” she said. “If he lets this stuff happen more often, he’ll degenerate into a loser’s paradise,” she said.
Considering the atmosphere and customer habits of Heaven Supermarket Bar, Chen admitted that she was not surprised to see COVID-19 prevention loopholes finally burst.
According to Beijing-based outlet Economic View, before the outbreak, customers at Heaven Supermarket Bar “barely wore masks”.
A Beijing resident, who was identified as a close contact, recalled that when she visited Heaven Supermarket Bar on the evening of June 6, customers were asked to scan the health code but staff carelessly checked.
Also, hardly anyone at Heaven Supermarket Bar wore a mask except for the staff members.
The Beijing Evening News said in a commentary on Monday that the cluster outbreak was due to loopholes and complacent epidemic prevention methods.
“At a time when normalcy is being restored to the city, the fall of Heaven Supermarket Bar means that the hardships and efforts of countless people have been in vain,” the Beijing Evening News said.
Even before a new virus wave was reported, some netizens warned that Heaven Supermarket Bar, with its chaotic epidemic prevention and management, will soon become a new epicenter of an epidemic.
However, Chen believes that after this epidemic is over, old and new customers will flock to Heaven Supermarket Bar as usual.
“There aren’t many bars with this business model, and it’s profitable for middle-aged youth,” Chen said.
She said Heaven Supermarket Bar has established strong roots among young Beijingers over the years. “I think an epidemic breach might not completely shatter the Heaven Supermarket Bar brand and its impression among young people, considering its long influence,” Chen remarked.