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Bar street heaven for expats, hell for locals

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

09:46, July 18, 2013

The 40 bars along Yongkang Road have become popular watering holes for expats in Shanghai, but residents complain that the noise is making their lives unbearable. (China Daily/Ri Yi)

Nightlife noise tests residents' tolerance, reports Zhou Wenting in Shanghai.

At 9 pm on July 4, a scorching summer day, more than 1,000 Westerners packed into a 5-meter-wide, tree-lined street chatting and laughing as they sipped drinks on Yongkang Road in Shanghai's Xuhui district.

The 50-meter-long street, a popular haunt for expatriates and located in the former French concession, is bounded on both sides by old, three-story residential buildings, the first floors of which have been converted into about 40 bars.

However, this is proving to be a headache for the locals. The buildings have poor sound insulation and those living on the upper floors have complained about the noise levels for the past year. Some have become so exasperated that they have emptied buckets of water onto the crowds below in an attempt to disperse them.

"Entertainment and nightlife are important components of successful cities and conflict between different communities is a natural consequence of a great, rising city that's not only a center for business, but also for fun and culture," said J. T. Singh, a Canadian "urban explorer and city identity expert" who has lived in Shanghai for six months.

The city is home to nearly 150,000 foreign permanent residents, a number that seems certain to increase, and some experts believe the problems of integration are like to become fraught unless entertainment districts are specifically designed to minimize conflict between the groups or the locals and expats reach some sort of compromise.

Joshua Miller works for a design company in Shanghai. The young Briton said he comes to Yongkang Road regularly after work to grab a beer and talk with friends. "We love this old street. There are traditional grocery stores and shoe shops here and we don't need to dress up like we would if we were going to fancy bars on the Bund. It's very Shanghainese here, people feel comfortable and relaxed," he said.

The presence of 200 French nationals in Ming Yuan Century City on Middle Fuxing Road, a high-class neighborhood nearby, inspired five compatriots to open Yongkang Road's first bar, Le Cafe des Stagiaires, in November 2011.

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