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April 8, 2010

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Big Bamboo grows bigger than ever

One of Shanghai's most well-known chain of sports bars, Big Bamboo, has opened up a new outlet in Jinqiao area, with its biggest venture located in what was once a display home for Canadian wood products.

Owner Bryce Jenner is also looking to make a mark in the restaurant game, converting the old Jinqiao Bamboo into a Mexican restaurant.

Jenner says his new 600-square-meter Bamboo has a family friendly atmosphere, with large wood decking overlooking a canal and a playground for kids.

"It is a lot more kid friendly, like our Hongqiao venue, where there is a playground and outside picnic tables and it will be more family orientated," he says.

"It is much bigger than our previous venue in Jinqiao so it will be more of everything."

Jenner, who is Canadian, says the new venue will also be an unofficial home for Canada during the World Expo 2010, with the Bamboo set to hold a number of Expo-related events including national day celebrations.

The new Bamboo, on Hongfeng Road, will also be a place to watch televised World Cup football games.

With two stories and the capacity to cater for up to 600 people, the new Bamboo will be one of the popular venues for the fans.

But Jenner says they had not decided on how they would handle the World Cup.

He says the Bamboo venues were looking at charging a cover price around the 100 yuan (US$14.6) mark but would provide entrants with a complimentary drink.

Over the next three weeks Jenner says his team has also been busy converting the old Jinqiao venue into a new Mexican restaurant called Pistolera.

Having gone into partnership with a Mexican chef known simply as "Tabasco," Jenner says the new restaurant will serve authentic Mexican offerings rather than the Tex Mex style dishes commonly available.

Jenner says Tabasco has been cooking in Beijing and Suzhou (Jiangsu Province), and has won some chilli cook off competitions in Shanghai and Suzhou.

With connections in the Shanghai Mexican community, Tabasco has also been recruiting some Mexican housewives to help teach the Chinese staff the intricacies of Mexican cooking, says Jenner.

There are big plans for the Pistolera concept, with hopes that it will become a chain of restaurants.

"It is a whole new concept and we want to do this for the long term and we want to build this brand into a chain," Jenner says.

"We don't want this to be just a one-off thing so I have gone into partnership with Tabasco who will focus on the food."

Jenner launched his first bar on Tongren Road in 2003, later moving to his well-known Bamboo on Nanyang Road.

On the back of the success of that venue he opened up his Hongqiao venue in 2005.

In a similar business approach to the one he later took in Jinqiao, after this first foray into Hongqiao he substantially upgraded the Bamboo's presence there, opening up the current large premises on Hongmei Road in 2008.

Jenner says he recently came close to opening up a venue in Beijing but pulled out at the last moment.

He says he has plans to open up a Bamboo Lodge in Niseko, Japan, which is popular for skiing.


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