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Salud! Cheers! Na Zdrowie! : Times Writers' Concise Correspondents Course in Cosmopolitan Conviviality

March 16, 1986|Jim Mann

PEKING — You're looking for what? A bar? A place to have a social drink? In Peking?

The very idea may be greeted here with derisive laughter. Peking is not one of the world's leading capitals for pub-crawling.

The Chinese drink very little hard liquor, and then only on festive occasions such as banquets.

Beer is popular in Peking but it is often in short supply, and there is nothing comparable to, say, a German beer hall. Over the past couple of summers, Peking has sought to revive the tradition of the teahouse, so far with only middling success.

But if you're really looking for a bar, in the American sense of the word, you should probably do your drinking in one of Peking's Western hotels. A nightspot particularly favored by foreigners is Charlie's, a smoky, dimly lit bar in the Jianguo Hotel, just down the street from the Friendship Store. Here, at small tables that stay occupied until the wee hours, journalists and diplomats speculate about the future of China, businessmen try to figure out how to make money here, and tourists unwind from an arduous day at the Great Wall.

Charlie's has no music. If you're looking for a place where you can dance, you might try Juliana's, a new bar and disco at the Holiday Inn Lido Hotel, which features the latest in video.

Mixed drinks at Juliana's range from the equivalent of $2.20 to $3.15, and imported beer costs about $1.90 a bottle. At Charlie's, mixed drinks are roughly the same as at Juliana's. Local beer is available at Charlie's for about $1.20.

Don't make the mistake of trying to take your Chinese friends along, at least not to Juliana's. We did, and ran up against the continuing problem here of official segregation of foreigners and Chinese. We escorted our friends into the Lido, but when we got to the door of Juliana's, the Chinese hostess stopped us.

"No local people allowed inside," she said icily.

Who said so? one of the friends asked.

"The police," she replied.

In China, that's always a conversation-stopper.

To reach Charlie's or Juliana's, just give the taxi driver the names of the hotels.

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