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Colin Tait, Bar Manager at Heyday and Shake

Nov 11, 2017

"Shanghai Famous" is a weekly SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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My name is Colin Tait and I’m the group bar manager for Shake and Heyday. I’m from Scotland and have been in Shanghai for nearly two years. I came here straight from a two year stint in Bangkok (minus a short stay in Africa) to join the opening team at Shake. I live in Changning, close to Donghua University. There're a lot of exchange and language students, but I find it a good area to live in. I have my own space, which might not be possible further in and it’s not far from anything. Very important, that. A late-night commute would put me in a perpetual bad mood.

Colin

I love that there is always something new to try in the city. A new restaurant, bar, gym, gadget, a show, mini-festival, whatever. Never lacks surprises. But you can still find space to retreat inside your bubble if necessary. OK, so the language barrier can be a little frustrating, but that’s my own problem. The rising rent also sucks. But these are first world problems. Life in Shanghai is pretty sweet.

Recently, my favorite restaurant is the refurbished Le Bouchon. I love anything with a ton of cream and butter. For an everyday sort of thing, the Ramen Shop on Shaanxi Nan Lu is my regular go-to before work. So's the sausage roll at the Shed, when it’s available. For drinks, Tour, around the corner from Shake, is a pretty solid cocktail bar, plus it’s a good crowd. That and the malls! You can find everything in a mall these days. There’s an underground mall in People’s Square that has a massive arcade. Street Fighter 2 all day long! [Ed's Note: Street Fighter 2 all day, baby].

Bartending can drive you a little crazy if you don’t look after yourself. It can fill you with a lot of adrenalin and lead to overindulgence when your shift's done. That can turn into one big cycle of abuse. Or partying. Depends on how you want to look at it. I've been guilty of this. But I’ve been taking boxing lessons at Golden Gloves recently instead. My level's proper garbage but I love the workout, and getting to hit something helps with the week's frustrations. I recently found a local climbing wall too.

Colin

Shanghai has a wealth of talent in F&B. That's great, but it also opens the door to a lot of so-so places along the way, a lot of ill thought-out concepts and “failures to launch.” I don't think a lot of new bars consider the fundamentals of running a business. Proper costing, utilization of space against guest spend, gimmicks against taste and productivity, wage budgets, proper P&L and forecasting what the guest wants against what the bartender wants. It's especially true with bartenders. We're in the rockstar phase. Some young guy gets a little bit of fame, someone chucks them a bit of money and boom, cocktail bar number 299 opens in Shanghai. The harsh realities of life follow close behind.

But bartenders are getting better. A lot of the education comes from the spirit brands, but some brands only extend the educational aspect to bars that stocks that brand, or only focus on the bars that are popular. I think it'd make more sense to open it up to the wider bartending community. The more bartenders know about a brand, the more bartenders are likely to use it. Guest bartenders from abroad can be a great resource too, but bartenders might not get much from an event that charges over 90rmb a drink. How many local bartenders are going to that? But it's still a business for everyone at the end of the day.

I would love to see more neighborhood bars opening up and I think there will be an extension of the large format bar. The beauty of Shanghai is that there are so many people, so there's room for anything. The execution just needs to be there.

Colin

I'm really lucky to work at both Shake and Heyday. It's my first time involved with venues where we want people to come for the music, and stay for the food & drink. The full night out, if you will. Heyday's more chilled and jazz-influenced, Shake's more high-energy soul & funk. I heard someone explain it to me once as “Heyday is where you take the wife. Shake is where you take the girlfriend." We get good company at either place.

Other guests aren't so great, of course. Worst guest for me was around ten years ago. I had to cut off a customer, and he threatened to come back and nail my hands to the bar. Needless to say I didn't take it seriously. To my surprise he turns up around an hour later with a hammer. Presumably the nails were somewhere on his person; I didn’t ask, one quick call and he got himself a free stay with the local constabulary.

Oh, and there was that gypsy riot. That’s a good story, but it has to be told in person.

Am I going to live in Shanghai forever? You never know. I’ve been fortunate to live and travel to a lot of different places over the last few years and for now Shanghai tops the bill. One thing I can say for sure is I don’t see myself ever leaving Asia.

VENUES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:

  • Le Bouchon

    • Dining
    • French
    • Jing'an
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      1455 Wuding Xi Lu, near Jiangsu Lu
      武定西路1455号, 近江苏路
    • Phone
      6225 7088

    Although some carp that it's outdated and overpriced, Le Bouchon is still a mainstay among Shanghai's French contingent. The menu consists of largely traditional fare like steak tartare, escargots. Be sure to come with an empty stomach. After the original owners (who... Read more

  • The Shed (Shaanxi Bei Lu)

    • Nightlife
    • Bars
    • Pool/Billiards
    • Address
      698 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Kangding Lu
      陕西北路698号, 近康定路
    • Phone
      6237 6381

    This is the second place for the friendly neighborhood pub The Shed. It's Aussie owned and specialises in keeping drink prices low all day, every day. Good place for cheap beer and sports, and they have a nice menu of pub grub, too. Friendly staff and a welcoming vibe. Read more

  • Heyday

    • Nightlife
    • Bars
    • Live Music
    • Address
      50 Tai'an Lu, near Xingguo Lu
      泰安路50号, 近兴国路
    • Phone
      6236 6075

    Heyday harks back to the glamorous days of 1920's and 30's Shanghai. It's a small, intimate venue showcasing local jazz talents like Coco Zhao. To go with the music is a list of cocktails that riff on Shanghai's decadent jazz era, with names like Heaven Built on... Read more

  • Ramen Shop

    • Japanese
    • Ramen
    • Xuhui
    • Address
      27 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Jinxian Lu
      陕西南路27号, 近进贤路
    • Phone
      6249 7895

    Modish little Japanese noodle shop specializing in the ever popular ramen. They offer three varieties of soup "white" (pork bone broth), "black" (soup seasoned with soy), and "yellow" (curry soup). To go with that is a selection of starters and side dishes, like... Read more

  • Park Climbing Gym

    • Wellbeing
    • Sports & Recreation
    • Gyms and Fitness Centres
    • Address
      199 Yangzhai Lu, near Kaixuan Lu
      杨宅路199号, 近凯旋路
    • Phone

    Read more

  • Golden Gloves (Wuding Lu)

    • Wellbeing
    • Sports & Recreation
    • Boxing
    • Address
      4/F, Huaqi Building 969 Wuding Lu, near Jiaozhou Lu
      武定路969号华棋大厦4楼, 近胶州路
    • Phone
      6733 7257

    Golden Gloves opened their new location in October, featuring a space several times bigger than their previous spot on Xiaoqiao Lu. The gym was originally founded in 2012 by Shane Benis and Alfonso Cuadra. Benis is also behind White Collar Boxing and Brawl on the... Read more

  • Shake

    • Nightlife
    • Fusion
    • Bars
    • Address
      3/F, 46 Maoming Nan Lu, near Jinxian Lu
      茂名南路46号3楼, 近进贤路
    • Phone
      6230 7175

    Opened by the owners of Heyday and Chef Danyi Gao, Shake is based on New York supper clubs from the 1960s, where patrons would spend an entire evening at the venue for food, drinks, and entertainment. Shake's dinner menu features fusion dishes created by Danyi Gao... Read more

  • Tour

    • Nightlife
    • Bars
    • Jing'an
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      462 Changle Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu
      长乐路462号, 近陕西南路
    • Phone
      6075 5821

    Small cocktail bar in United Valley where you can eat the menu. They do twists on classics paired with tiny bites. For example, a fat-washed cocktail comes with a few slices of Iberico ham; a pink cocktail arrives with pickled quail eggs; another drink comes with a... Read more

[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a weekly SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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