It's 1am in Sanlitun's Tongli Building and around 100 people, most of them highly attractive, are either dancing to high-octane techno or pouring champagne into each other’s mouths from the bottle. A mildly drunk man in a blue baseball cap is planting a kiss on a red-cheeked, besuited gent who can’t keep the smile off his face.
The latter man is the wonderfully-named veteran Beijing DJ Pancake Lee and the venue is his new club Aurora
, which has sprung up in the area that was known as Dirty Bar Street before the bulldozers trundled in
at the latter end of 2017. Previously characterised by seedy bars and arguably being the most hedonistic thoroughfare in the city, the area has been levelled, paved over, and now resembles a riverfront shopping redevelopment in a minor European city.
Aurora is attempting to be the shiny new nightlife face of this new, soaped-up era for Sanlitun, and it’s going rather well so far. Its size means that a night there is an intimate clubbing experience, and queues have already formed outside at weekends. Wednesday is old-school hip-hop night, Thursday is funk night, and weekends see touring DJs descend with a deep house, techno and disco bent. US and Mexican food is served be-fore things get clubby from 10pm.
Lee regularly takes to the decks, and is unashamed about the demise of Dirty Bar Street. 'My customers are mainly people with higher income who want to spend it on quality nightlife,' he says. 'They didn’t like the old dirty street because it was dirty. They like places in Nali Patio. The renovated dirty street looks right for them.'
With the adjacent Nali Patio recently seeing the shuttering of Migas
, another long-time Sanlitun nightlife institution, Aurora does seem well placed to be the new face of clean clubbing in the area. Race you to the shower?