At least two venues received the notice ordering the limit on foreign customers — a cafe and bar called Lush, and Pyro, a pizza bar, both owned by the same person. Although the restriction will be lifted after the congress ends next week, some fear the scrutiny will not.
Managers of the two bars, who would not comment for the record, hung the notices outside the entrances. Photos quickly appeared on social media, where they elicited outrage and disappointment.
“I wonder when people are going to start thinking things are getting a bit much,” one person wrote on WeChat, China’s major messaging platform, in a group chat normally devoted to events being hosted at Lush. One website for foreigners made light of the ban: “Ten’s a party, eleven’s an offense.”
Some Beijingers advised against reading too much into the notice. The city always makes some efforts to put on a good face during political events in the capital, and staff in at least three other venues in Wudaokou claimed no knowledge of any restrictions on patrons.
Others, however, saw the edict as an effort to tame a party culture that has become notorious among students.
Many saw parallels with a cleanup last year of another thriving night life district in Beijing. The crackdown on “Dirty Bar Street” in the central Sanlitun neighborhood, known for its live bands and bikini-clad pole dancers, demolished dozens of structures, ostensibly for violations of building codes or safety regulations. After a makeover, the strip is now a bland pedestrian mall, anchored by fashion boutiques and a new public library.
Tavey Lin, co-owner of the bar and restaurant 4Corners in central Beijing, acknowledged that there is more scrutiny from the authorities during important government meetings. He recalled having to cancel one event at his restaurant after the police found out a foreign ambassador was planning to make an appearance. According to Mr. Lin, that sounded too risky to the police, who suddenly launched an inspection.
“We got inspected for literally everything,” he said. “We had to close for a few days and spend thousands on remodeling.”
In Wudaokou, the local authorities have previously used the enforcement of zoning and safety regulations to target certain venues — not without reason. After a fire killed 19 migrant workers in a Beijing apartment building last November, Lush has not been allowed to hold live music concerts or open-mic nights because of fire safety concerns.
Mr. Lin says stronger enforcement of fire codes was probably overdue. Pyro, for instance, had only one exit, despite being in a basement and drawing crowds of more than 200 revelers.
“China’s just enforcing codes and regulations that should have been done right in the first place,” Mr. Lin said.
According to The Beijinger, an online English-language directory and calendar of events, at least five Wudaokou bars and restaurants were forced to temporarily close in January of last year to make mandated upgrades in fire safety. Some never reopened.