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September 19, 2017

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How to keep the fun in nightlife but avoid the seedier aspects

SHANGHAI wants its citizens to enjoy food and music at night, but not the noise, drunks and fights of the past.

As a result the city is promoting nightlife — but in a more regulated way than has been in the case in the past.

Many old night markets or bar streets in Shanghai, such as Yongkang Road, have disappeared in recent years. But other food stalls and bars are thriving in the city after moving to new venues where customers can still enjoy the food and music without affecting residents living nearby.

To stimulate a more orderly Shanghai evening culture, the city’s commission of commerce said this month that it will build up several demonstration zones to promote “nightlife in Shanghai.”

Found 158 on Julu Road is one such demonstration zone. With the closure of the once famed bar street on Yongkang Road after local residents complained about the drunken noise for years, some bars moved to Found 158.

The sunken plaza housing nearly 20 bars and restaurants was full of people, mainly expatriates, on Saturday night.

But thanks to the plaza’s design and the lack of residential buildings around the park, the music can barely be heard in nearby streets.

“When we were at Yongkang Road, people living upstairs would always come down and ask you to keep your voices down, which I totally understand,” said Andrea Schiffer, from Germany. “But here is much more closed and better for live music.”

Kirsten Olson, an American aged 30, said Found 158 is a nice place for groups to hang out and mingle.

Jerry Pang works at Mexican restaurant El Santos, called El Lunchador when it was on Yongkang Road. “We used to see some diners have conflicts on streets, as people get emotional after drinks and sometimes even fight. But here with security guards introduced, they prevent such things from happening. And now we almost receive no complaints from local residents.”

Zhoupu Night Market is also an example on how a crowded night market evolved from a sidewalks venue to develop into a regulated area.

There used to be more than 300 food stalls spreading along Nianjiabang and Kangshen roads after about 9pm. In 2013, the local government launched a big crackdown, and set up an open place near Zhoukang Road and invited the stall operators to move in. About 40 of them did so.

Today, the new market, featuring crayfish, fried dishes and barbecue food, operates from 6pm to 2am. During the peak April to September season, it is not easy to secure a seat at one of the 250 tables.

“Many food stalls on sidewalks are blamed for using illegal cooking oil to cut costs, but here every stall has to use provided cooking oil to prevent such a situation,” said Han Junping, manager of Shanghai Hushu Catering Management Company that manages the night market. “We also ensure that every staffer here has to achieve health qualifications.”

Wu Bin, 29, has been a frequent diner on Kangshen Road since he was in high school. “We diners used to flee with the stall operators once the urban management officers patrolled here,” he recalled. “The best thing about the new night market is that you don’t have to worry the stall will have to move due to crackdown and you know where to find your favorite cuisine.”

Forty-seven-year-old Wang Maoshun has operated his barbeque stall in Zhoupu for a decade. Though the new market means a higher cost on management fees, the benefits are also bigger. “Before, we had to bring ice from home and put the frozen food on the ice to keep it fresh,” said Wang. “But now we have a refrigerator, and tap water to wash vegetables. Everything is easier, and there are more regular customers.”

The city’s commission of commerce said it hopes to provide more alternatives for young consumers who work or live nearby to relax at night.

Officials added the authority will draft guidelines on the development of the nightlife in Shanghai after consultation and studying experiences from the demonstration zones.


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