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After Closing Three Bars, the Bar Owner Turns to Livestreaming for Survival | Online Gallery

Garrett_Li

Garrett_...

· 7月6日

While the streets of Beijing seemed to be becoming lively again, Cai was still waiting to reopen his bar again.

BEIJING, July 6 (TMTPOST) -- Beijing, the capital of China, was hit by the resurgence of Covid-19 pandemic once again in May. The city was finally able to catch its breath on May 29 as it welcomed the easing of the lockdown, which was eagerly anticipated by not only residents but also business owners.

Cai Xu, a bar owner in Beijing, felt relieved when the news of the lifting of lockdown measures came. It appeared that he could finally reopen his businesses.

Cai had to suspend his business operation for three times in the past two years. What’s worse, he lost three bars in Beijing because of the pandemic. In May, Cai decided to bring the jazz music performance that was expected to take place at his bar to a livestreaming show, an attempt to save his remaining bar at Sanlitun.

In the 123rd issue of Online Gallery by TMTPost, we witnessed a livestreaming performance done by Cai.

Cai’s livestreaming show provided people in lockdown or quarantine with cathartic experiences. Some of the audiences had been confined to their homes for over 50 days. Some told Cai that they felt enormously happy after watching the livestreaming show. A lady who was undergoing quarantine in Beijing even watched the show with the company of her two puppies.

In 2013, the 26-year-old Cai quit his job for starting his own business. Originally an architect at a state-owned enterprise, Cai started his new career as a bar owner by opening the Binge Bar. The bar also has a space that sells vinyl records and a venue for small-sized live music performances.

Similar to many bars, Binge Bar has warm and yellow lights, wooden bar counter and lots of liquor bottles on the wall. If you look closely, you would discover that there are hundreds of vinyl records hanging on the other wall. Different record players can be found in the back of the bar, where it is used as a room for listening to music.

The bar gradually gained popularity over the time by catering to a niche interest. It has become a haven for many vinyl record lovers. In 2016, Cai received an investment that allowed him to open four outlets in Beijing and Chengdu.
Vinyl records in display at Binge

Vinyl records in display at Binge

Cai had to suspend the business operation of his bars for three times since 2020 due to the resurging Covid-19 pandemic. “One bar could only stay open for four months in a year,”  Cai recalled.

He had closed down three of his bars. In Beijing, there is only one bar left for Cai.

In April 2022, another wave of Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Beijing, the capital city of China. On April 28, Cai received a notice that informed him that he must suspend the operation of his bar.

“We are always the first batch of businesses to suspend operation and the last batch to reopen,” Cai told Online Gallery. After suspending the operation, Cai had no choice but dismissed the bar’s manager and staff to control the costs. Cai then became the only staff working at the bar.
Cai working in the bar

Cai working in the bar

What is the biggest value that bars bring to customers? From Cai’s perspective, bars provide customers with “real” experiences offline. This means that bars must offer their customers good drinks, great music and movies, as well as decent services.

This is also the reason why Cai had not been transferring his business to online platforms in the past two years. But now Cai wants to keep his last brick-and-mortar bar. “If we are stubborn about running an offline business, then we would lose terribly,” Cai said. 

Starting from 2014, Cai organized jazz band performances every week at his bar. His customers loved it, reflected by the fact that the bar was filled with crowds every time there was a performance. “Why not bring the performance to livestreaming platforms?” The idea then came to Cai’s mind.
Livestreaming on different platforms on May 18

Livestreaming on different platforms on May 18

Livestreaming of the live performance on May 18

Livestreaming of the live performance on May 18

Cai’s idea was simple. He only planned to film the entire performance with a smartphone. He actually had low expectations for the attempt since the quality of music cannot be guaranteed on livestreaming shows. “It would be great if we get  one thousand people watching the show,” Cai thought. What surprised him was that nearly four thousand people watched his show on livestreaming platforms.

Some viewers gave tips to Cai on the livestreaming show, while some purchased drinks and music records to support him. An art gallery in Beijing even invited Cai to use their venue for the performance after seeing his livestreaming show, hoping to invite him to do similar performances at their place.
In Beijing, a lady in quarantine was watching Cai’s livestreaming show with her dogs

In Beijing, a lady in quarantine was watching Cai’s livestreaming show with her dogs

Online livestreaming show brings a completely different experience for the audience.

Cai received a lot of feedback from his audience after the livestreaming show. Some of these people had been confined to their homes for over 50 days. Some of the audience told Cai that they felt enormously happy after watching the livestreaming show. A lady who was undergoing quarantine in Beijing even watched the show with the company of her two puppies.

“Anyway, offline experiences offer unique entertainment that online experiences can never provide. That’s why we are working hard to make sure our business can survive,” Cai told Online Gallery.

The bar next to Cai’s, which had been around for around eight years, decided to shut down its business on May 17, one day before Cai’s second livestreaming show. The bar owner was selling the drinks and furniture at the closed bar. Cai helped them by reposting the information.

On May 29, lockdown measures in some areas in Beijing were lifted. Malls reopened again. Crowds started to show up at Sanlitun. While the streets of Beijing seemed to be becoming lively again, Cai was still waiting to reopen his bar again.

(The article is translated and edited with authorization from the author @韦嘎, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce. The original article can be found here.)

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