New cellar dweller at TRIO

TRIO opened in May of 2006 and included: a reincarnation of Beijing’s oldest non-hotel bar, Frank’s Place, at ground level; a seventy-seat New York grill and piano bar, Park Grill, up top; and the high-end wine-centric The Cellar in, no surprise, the basement.

Frank’s Place is doing fine, with improvements to the deck helping, but The Park Grill and The Cellar have struggled. TRIO management reports the latter has been rented to a Korean company that operates eight wine bars in Seoul under the name Le Cave.

The Cellar was unique to Beijing, with pint-sized suits of armor and wrought-iron doors up front, an arched roof, stucco and brickwork inside, and, for members of Club 88, on-site storage space for 32 bottles. ASC Fine Wines was the sole TRIO wine supplier.The idea behind Club 88: with an 8888 kuai initial investment and 3888 kuai annual fee, members would receive free wine dinners and cooking classes, discounts on wine, and the on-site storage space (lock, key and brass name plate included). The market for this turned out to be smaller than expected and, in this drinker’s humble opinion, a menu where the cheapest bottle was 600 kuai prevented walk-in traffic (dozens of cheaper wines were later added to the menu).

By renting The Cellar to another company, TRIO management can focus on its bread and butter – Frank’s Place – while the new partners provide added marketing and sales power. This might end up being one of those “win-win” situations.

“The result is not that different from the original concept,” says one TRIO investor. “We’ve just teamed up with strategic partners.”

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