UPDATE: Kokomo's Rooftop Closes; Owners Open New, More Secure Space in Rec Room's Former Digs
[UPDATE, Aug 9] Since the publication of this blog, we've found out that a demolition crew arrived and used a crane to destroy Kokomo's terrace. Though the much-beloved space is gone, we hope that many of you made it last weekend for one last hurrah. And there's still plenty of consolation to be had at the new indoor Kokomo (formerly Rec Room).
Party people, try not to despair. There's bad – but also good – news coming by way of Kokomo.
Let's get the bad out of the way: Kokomo's rooftop – which has long been a hotspot for debaucherous Beijingers to booze and dance the night away – is at risk of being closed.
Co-owner El-Mar Bengal tells the Beijinger that the club (located on the roof of Tongli Studios on Sanlitun Houjie, commonly referred to as "Dirty Bar Street") was recently inspected by the chengguan, and they told him major, yet-to-be-determined changes will be needed to bring the venue up to par with safety and zoning standards, the same regulations that have lead to venue closures across Beijing as of late.
While Bengal is not yet sure whether officials will order him to permanently close the rooftop right away, or just renovate at some point soon, he worries this might be the last weekend that it can stay open as is. He'd be happy to – and is still holding out hope that he can – keep the rooftop open without any major interruptions, but he says the venue's future is still up in the air until the officials notify him of their final decision.
But even if they crack down and the rooftop is promptly closed after this weekend, Kokomo fans can at least take solace in a more reassuring development: Bengal and his team have taken over the neighboring space indoors that was known as Rec Room. Though Bengal planned to open that new neighboring indoor venue later, he and his cohorts have now pushed the debut up and will throw the doors open tonight (Aug 4), as consolation for the shaky status of their rooftop. This newly revamped indoor space will essentially be an extension of the Kokomo terrace: a surf-style beach bar, with loads of cheap drinks and tunes that'll appeal to the masses.
Partiers with more refined tastes will likely be sad to see Rec Room go. After all, a Beijinger reviewer compared Rec Room, upon its opening, to Gulou hotspot Dada and heralded it as a house and techno oasis in a "building known for the most detestable EDM music imaginable." Such a dig, however, surely irked the broader masses of more casual patrons, who will no doubt be glad to have a convenient location on the dirty bar street to shake their booties to mainstream music, regardless of whether it's indoors or on the terrace. What's more: Bengal was also involved in the Rec Room project from its inception, which should render any rivalry moot (after all, can one not enjoy fun, surf bar clubbing once and while, and also frequent more cutting-edge techno joints?) And while his cohorts from Rec Room have now moved on to other things, Bengal is happy to make the neighboring indoor venue an extension of the Kokomo rooftop, so that people can enjoy the surf-style vibes even if the terrace is closed.
Bengal has long been a DJ and bar owner in Beijing and has opened numerous clubs across town. You can read more about him in an earlier China Daily profile. And though Kokomo has its detractors among fans of more critically acclaimed dance music, it's tough to deny its popularity, drawing throngs to its rooftop week after week. It was voted “Best Outdoor Terrace” in the Beijinger's 2007 Reader Bar and Club Awards.
Those fans were likely relieved when the bar survived a spate of dirty bar street chai-ing back in April that, in the end, only lead to closures on the opposite side of the street. But now Bengal says the authorities are setting their sites on the Kokomo side of that drag, and he's heard rumblings about Nali Patio soon being hit as well. Considering all that, he feels fortunate to at least have the former Rec Room space secured, so those remnants of Dirty Bar Street's soon-to-be-bygone feckless days remain.