Shanghai has long had a vibrant nightlife dating back to the Jazz Age, and now the club scene is literally the bomb. The Shelter is a new hot spot set inside a renovated Bomb shelter that gives new meaning to creative reuse. As the price of real estate continues to soar in this city of 13 million, entrepreneurs are turning these underground hovels into the hottest places to hang out.
The Shelter is one of the most popular venues showcasing Shanghai’s underground – as in subterranean and alternative – music scene. The Shelter has taken over one of the thousands of former bomb shelters that are spread across Shanghai. The Chinese government relentlessly built these shelters during the 1960s and 1970s due to the fear of air raids from the Soviet Union.
In Shanghai’s Xuhui District, which includes the historic French Concession where The Shelter is located, local officials estimate 2,000 of these shelters are tucked under commercial buildings old and new. After tensions with the Soviet Union subsided, the government rented the shelters out as vegetable markets or massage parlors. Many were lost as Shanghai built and expanded its subway network, but creative business owners keep finding new locations in which to launch new bars, clubs and shops.
For owners of these venues, running a business in such a spot is more than about offering a place with an edgy atmosphere. The cool temperatures allow for cost-effective storage of drinks and food without running up electricity bills. Lower costs means a cheaper night out: The Shelter’s cover charge is $2 to $8, and drinks are priced on the low end – a welcome relief in expensive Shanghai. With the exception of a few pieces of furniture, little is needed to create a creepy yet cool post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Sustainable business in Shanghai has never been so fun.
Photos courtesy Smart Shanghai