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Lights out for Shichahai

After a tour of the bar street that loops around Shichahai, in Xicheng district, Beijing vice-mayor Chen Gang announced that the tourist destination is too brightly lit and needs to cull out businesses ill-suited to the neighborhood’s “brand.”
Under the vice-mayor’s instructions, bars in Shichahai will only have “three layers” of illuminations: lights outlining the buildings, lights illuminating the bars’ names and interior lighting, according to the Beijing Daily, which reported that all outdoor liquor advertisements and other privately installed lighting devices will be remov

Global Times by Xu Tianran, June 1, 2011

Neon signs and glowing lanterns illuminate Shichahai last night. Vice-mayor Chen Gang has said many of the areas lights need to be culled. Photo: Guo Yingguang/GT

Neon signs and glowing lanterns illuminate Shichahai last night. Vice-mayor Chen Gang has said many of the area's lights need to be culled. Photo: Guo Yingguang/GT

After a tour of the bar street that loops around Shichahai, in Xicheng district, Beijing vice-mayor Chen Gang announced that the tourist destination is too brightly lit and needs to cull out businesses ill-suited to the neighborhood’s “brand.”

Under the vice-mayor’s instructions, bars in Shichahai will only have “three layers” of illuminations: lights outlining the buildings, lights illuminating the bars’ names and interior lighting, according to the Beijing Daily, which reported that all outdoor liquor advertisements and other privately installed lighting devices will be removed.

Employees of the Shichahai scenery administration, the publicity office of the Shichahai Sub-district Administrative Office and the publicity office of the Xicheng district government all claimed they could not comment on the vice-mayor’s visit.

Another instruction of the vice-mayor was that businesses considered unsuitable for the Shichahai historic and cultural preservation zone should be removed and replaced with businesses that can represent the folk customs and cultural traditions of old Beijing, according to the report. Hardware, liquor and tobacco stores and car washes will be weeded out in the zone.

Wei Qian, a section chief of the Xicheng district Party committee news office, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he thought a plan to address Chen’s concerns existed but that he needed time to verify the details.

The Beijing Youth Daily quoted an anonymous official from a relevant department as saying that the lighting issue will be resolved within two months.

Shichahai is indeed over-illuminated, in addition to being too noisy and crowded, said Chen Kai, a 27-year-old white-collar worker who often goes to bars on the weekend.

“Compared with Shichahai or Nanluoguxiang, I prefer Wudaoying Hutong. But sadly, it is turning into another over-commercialized bar street too,” he said.

Though there is no information on what kinds of businesses will be introduced to Shichahai, Wang Ruqin, chairwoman of the non-government Chinese Commercial History Association, thought there was but one appropriate type of contender.

“Only China’s time-honored brands can match the historical and cultural weight of Shichahai,” Wang told the Global Times.

He Shuzhong, founder of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, approved of the vice-mayor’s ideas.

“Landscape lighting and businesses should suit Shichahai’s style as a cultural heritage site,” He said, adding, “but daily administration is more important than sudden rectification.”

Prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, bars in Shichahai were ordered to rectify their light settings in exactly the same “three-layer” fashion. But the bar street slipped back into its old ways two years after the Olympics, the Beijing Daily reported.

“There will be no atmosphere without the lanterns,” a bartender surnamed Jiang at the Liehuoqilin bar, located in Yindingqiao Hutong, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Jiang had not heard of the coming lighting crackdown.

“If they order us to remove the lanterns, we will do it. And we will hang the lanterns again after the inspection,” he said, pointing out, “People come here to enjoy the lights.”

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