By Jim Boyce
Given these photos, it looks like California Grapes in Sanlitun Soho is a) preparing for renovations less than six months after opening, b) in need of a clean up after a bash so big most of the wine got guzzled and the ensuing chaos saw the posters stripped from the walls and the furniture tossed into the cold Beijing night or c) closed.
I have yet to hear back from Frank Yglesias, the guy behind this wine shop / bar, but there is no doubt this place is a tough sell given it: a) has a tough location in the lower level of low-traffic Sanlitun Soho, b) is dedicated to a niche market — one state of one country — and has mostly so-so wines, c) has had a 50-percent discount on all bottles over the past two months, which doesn’t inspire confidence in business longevity.
There was also the element of uncertainty after Yglesias resigned from the publicly traded California Grapes International in November — see here for a board of directors release with scary words like “liquidation”, “bankruptcy” and “alleviate debt”.
Whatever the case may be, it is a bit sad to see as California Grapes has been a fun stop given the prices, the live music, and the interesting characters, including Yglesias, that I have met there. I asked him several times late last year about the future of the store and he said he planned to keep it going and run it himself, so perhaps there are plans in the works to make that happen. I’ll update here if I get any more information.