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[Gaydar]: 390 Panyu Lu

Aug 22, 2012
by Nick Taylor

Area: Panyu Lu. Or is it Fanyu Lu? The street behind Xingfu Lu, running north from Fahuazhen Lu up to Yan’an Xi Lu. 390 Panyu Lu is opposite a Will’s gym and next door to one of those new kopi luwak (cat shit) coffee shops. It’s close enough to Shanghai’s “gay triangle” to pull in its core demographic of hard-partying, hard-spending lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.

What it is: Shanghai’s first livehouse / gay nightclub. It’s an unusual combination — the bastard child of two unlikely bedfellows. It’s backed by Jack Chen, the guy who owns Shanghai Studio, but will be managed by Sacco, who owns Uptown Records and is one of Shanghai’s 80s DJs.

Sacco’s also active on the live music scene and writes SmartShanghai’s weekly MP3 Mondays column. He wanted to open a bar with room for small indie and rock shows. Chen came on board with designs to open a new space for the gay crowd. What we get is both things under one roof. 390 Panyu Lu will be a gay venue first and foremost, with weekly parties for the LGBT crowd, but will also host occasional live shows, record releases and showcases for local bands, which will take place earlier in the evening and clear out by about 11pm. Right now they’re already running parties on Friday and Saturday nights from 11pm; 100rmb gets you in and two drinks.

The space has two discrete areas. The front feels like a lounge, with a long bar and sofa seating. The back has the dancefloor, the stage, its own bar and a mezzanine level with some sofas and a gangway. The DJ's also up there, looking down over the crowd. The sound system was put in by Patrick Mai who did The Shelter, Lola and Shiva.

In the week, the front will serve as a cocktail bar with the back getting busy at weekends. The drinks menu was created with some help from the bar manager at Arcade and it shows. It’s restrained but creative, with about 20 original cocktails — four martinis, four long drinks, four shorts and four sparkling — making use of ingredients like marmalade, absinthe, violette liqueur and fresh fruit purees. The beer selection is also good, with three on tap and another 10 by the bottle, so both beer-gut rock jocks or and perfumed ponce cocktail sippers should be happy.

There’s also a single page of bar bites that were worked up by restaurateur and consultant chef Anthony Zhao. A cheese plate, a sausage plate with Amelia’s jams, croquettes, fritters, meatballs and fish ‘n’ chips. Simple but appealing. Those are available early evenings.

Atmosphere: The front of the house has a few Victorian England nods, with faux William Morris flock wallpaper and bookshelves stacked with antique-looking (though fake) tomes. The furniture is also a kitsch blend of something you’d find in a gentleman’s club, covered in silver and black pleather. Out back, the venue becomes more functionally clubby, with a lots of mirrors and chrome.

On walls are canvas prints of work by Austrian painter Egon Schiele. Three or four flatscreens show muted John Waters films. But there’s nothing flaming about the place. Oh, there’s a flatscreen in the john, too, in the urinal, so boys can paint pictures with their pee on Divine’s chubby face. Apart from that it’s really quite reserved.

Damage: Pretty standard cocktail prices. Almost everything is 60rmb, with a couple of long drinks for 65rmb, creeping up to 70rmb for anything with top-shelf spirits. Virgin cocktails are 45rmb. Beers on tap are 35rmb (San Miguel) to 60rmb (Dead Guy). Bottled beers are 30-50rmb. The food is relatively cheap, from 30rmb up to 120rmb for the cheese and meat plate. Fish ‘n’ chips for 45rmb. That sounds like a steal.

Who's going: The “semi-soft” opening party was last Saturday night and drew more than 300 people. Those gays do love a party and they’re always the first to know. Fridays and Saturdays it’s going to be rammed with the pink crowd. Good looking, well dressed, neatly turned out, recently shaved and tweezered… tomorrow’s master race.
August 17, 2012

Address: Rockbund,
390 Panyu Lu, 
near Fahuazhen Lu 


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