Shanghaiist wants to ask you, dear reader, something: What exactly is the meaning of an open bar? We ask because of what happened to us last night at Studio 78. We arrived there after 10 pm, when according to an announcement we saw online, there was to be an open bar from 10 pm-midnight as part of the bar’s one year birthday celebration.
However, when we got there we wanted to verify that it indeed was an open bar and that we were eligible to partake in it. So Shanghaiist sauntered up to the bar smoothly (as we always do) and asked a foreign female bartender if there was an open bar. She looked confused and told us to talk to Chinese bartender and we asked him, in Chinese, if there was indeed an open bar tonight. This is what he said:
Bartender: There’s a one year anniversary going on.
Shanghaiist: So … is there some kind of drink special or anything?
Bartender: Yes, but it’s not for locals (不针对本地人), it’s only for laowai and friends of the manager.
Shanghaiist: Well, I’m a foreigner, so … but wait, it didn’t say anything about that on the flyer …
Bartender: I only work here part-time. That’s what they told me.
Shanghaiist: Where’s the manager?
Bartender: She’s the woman down there.
Shanghaiist: What woman?
Bartender: The one that you were talking to before.
Shanghaiist: But she said that she didn’t know what was going on!
Bartender: What do you want to drink?
Shanghaiist: What? I don’t know, maybe a beer.
The bartender reached into a box full of ice and took out a small bottle of Tsingtao and pushed it toward us. He didn’t ask us if we wanted Tsingtao — he just pulled it out of the box, assuming perhaps that this would mollify us. It didn’t.
Shanghaiist: Look, I can’t take this beer — I’m with four other people. Can you just ask your manager to clarify what is going on?
Next we saw some of their senior personnel conferring, but about what we don’t know. In a fit of pique we walked back to our table — two “locals” and another foreigner who could pass for a “local” — to report on what was happening. In the meantime, one of the other members of our party talked to one of the managers, and he seemed both apologetic and embarrassed by this situation. He said he was in charge of putting out the adverts — therefore, he should have known exactly what the wording regarding the open bar was and thus whose mistake this was. We each got a draft beer apiece, but are still unsure as to what exactly happened.
We’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt — it could have just been a failure to communicate between senior staff and the bartenders. But why did the female foreign bartender that we talked to not know what was going on and immediately pass us off to the “part-time” Chinese bartender? In any case, there were other vaguely Chinese-looking people in the bar and they had drinks — were they friends of the owners, Studio 78 “members” or had they just paid for their drinks? Had we failed to read the fine print on the flyer and unwittingly stumbled onto an event for which we weren’t invited? Or did they not like us because we had “freeloading cheapskates” written all over our Chinese foreheads? If it was really a member or invite-only thing (though nothing that we had read indicated so), we are nonetheless baffled as to why we would be refused on the grounds that we are
“locals” and not “foreigners,” which seems to us an improper response to our queries. (There is also a bit of bitter irony in all this, since this Shanghaiist was born and raised in the US of A.)
None of this is really a big deal to us — we are more curious than angry. Studio 78 is closed on Sundays, and we will attempt to contact them this coming week. However, if anyone from Studio 78 (or who can otherwise provide us with reliable information) is willing to comment or clarify this situation, you’re more than welcome to do so on this website.