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Taipei Bars and Clubs: A FW15 Update

It’s that time of the year, kids: the holidays – which, if you’re past the legal drinking age of 18 – essentially means “a [more] socially acceptable occasion to get shitfaced. Lots of visitors will be coming into Taipei these next few months for such momentous events such as Halloween, Christmas vacation, New Year, Chinese New Year. Lest you be led astray as to the best places to booze, I’m back to report on the ever-changing Taipei nightlife scene as the end of 2015 nears, and here are some updates. Check here for my original nightlife post (written at the beginning of 2015) to see how fast things have changed. 

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OPENINGS & RE-OPENINGS

As I’ve mentioned before, all businesses in Taiwan have a robust Facebook presence – that’s the best place to find out vital things such as opening times, locations, if they still exist – so on and so forth.

FRANK – a new bar on the 10F of ATT4FUN (god, what a name) complex is reported to actually have good cocktails (ahem, STREAM) and draw a relatively decent crowd, despite having a relatively small space and a miniscule patio. Still no idea who the hell FRANK is.

MARQUEE – now open following a renovation, and the results are gorgeous – featuring a massive wraparound bar with wood panelling and red velvet banquettes. Marquee may have made its name primarily as a celeb watering hole, but industry insiders know that the bar is staffed with award-winning bartenders. It’s not a surprise then, that the drinks are high-quality. While the bar features a range of live jazz acts and a more relaxed vibes (making it ideal for a weekday nightcap), weekends are incredibly high-octane and surprisingly – all about hip-hop (everything from old-school to Drake bangers) – so hip-hop heads, take note.

• ALCHEMY upstairs is still up and running; not much has changed there.

窖父 HIDEOUT – this dive bar opened on the corner of Xinsheng and Heping, next to a maternity clinic (insert side eye) and is consistently packed every single day – I’m talking Mondays, Tuesdays, everyday] with [what I assume to be unemployed] people dressed in black and snap-backs. I would make it a regular haunt (the fact that it’s 30 seconds from my house helps), but the severely limited drinks menu (and overpriced beer) and the insanely loud music (this is not me being an old person, I work in a club, remember – the music is too. loud.) makes me avoid it unless friends drop in and text me hey stephanie we’re at hideout and you better come down i know you live thirty seconds away bitch! This was why I hated living so close to Chachawan and Yardbird in Hong Kong.

EAST END BAR (Hotel Proverbs): This bar,located in a boutique hotel opened by the same group behind Hotel Quote is gorgeous, and in a central location. It’s somewhere I’d take a more discerning out-of-town friend for a drink to show them that Taipei has some semblance of cosmopolitan swag. Then they’d experience the waitress not knowing what a martini was, and demanding that we spend a minimum before she’s even greeted us, and spilling our drink over our table as she sets it down without apology – and then I’d be embarrassed and be all like, let’s go to HALO – at least we can see 101 while we’re there.

和酒 WA-SHU: Re-located to a much more convenient location in 東區 – purists and grumpy hipsters will be complaining [but man, they complain about everything] and now one of my favorite spots for chill drinks – the rows of vodka and sake infusions, as well as the rows of bar paraphernalia – are impressive to look at.

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CLUB UPDATES 

NEWSFLASH: WEDNESDAYS ARE DEAD: I’ve sacrificed and done thorough research on this subject, aka being out for three Wednesdays in a row. It is confirmed. Wednesdays are dead; they are over; the times where Ladies Night was worth going out for are long gone. The only place worth going to (and for me to even admit this, is something) is ELEKTRO, and only because that’s the only place there are actually enough people to make it seem like you’re at a club. That says a lot about Wednesdays. Go out to WOOTP or Ounce for a few drinks and then call it a night, go in refreshed to work on Thursday, keep your dignity.

ELEKTRO draws the same boring type of people as ever, now with the addition of ballers from Mainland China doing things like buying 100 bottles of Dom, or something ridiculous like that. Thank god for them, though – because otherwise, Elektro probably wouldn’t be doing as well as it is, while most other nightlife outlets in the city are struggling. The general consensus is that everyone is nostalgic for the days of old Spark at the bottom of Taipei 101, when the tables were mainly booked by bankers coming in for the weekend from Hong Kong and Singapore, the crowd was much crazier – or perhaps that’s just looking at that time through rose-tinted glasses.

OMNI is apparently good, but I sure as hell haven’t seen any evidence of that. The remodelling made it more table-centric and less dance-floor oriented, but I have no opinions on that, as I usually just stop by OMNI to drink a few for a friend’s birthday and complain about how the LED screens are hurting my eyes, and how incredibly bad the music is [so, so bad].

ROOM18: I recently went here and there was literally no one there that looked over age 22. So think about that, and make your life decisions accordingly. I mean, Taiwanese look young for their age, sure, but – just don’t go here. I don’t know anyone that does. 

LMNT: has been suffering from the general malaise that has affected the rest of Taipei nightlife, but I still go – I guess because whenever I walk in, I’m guaranteed to know someone there – they’ve got a small, but dedicated crowd. The restaurant portion has since been done away with and turned into club-style tables, and the music is also more club oriented, so they may be trying to lean towards a club concept, but the tables stand empty; as people congregate towards the bar.

Update: As of 3/12/2016, LMNT is permanently closed.

CHESSWell, has its nights, definitely – its late, late nights. I have my qualms about it at times, but it by far still has the most interesting crowd. It’s increasingly become more and more of an after-hours shit-show spot. so take note of that. Reaches its peak only after 2am, so plan accordingly, and prepare for an insanely crowded venue after 3am.

Update: As of February 2016, Chess is permanently closed in its current location.

Images c/o Black-Buddha

16 Comments

  1. How long ago was it when Spark was great? I used to live in TW in 2010 and had good times at Odeon near Taida. It’s more of a laid-back place to hang out with your friends. 5 years before that it was all about the area around Shida (the 7-11 all the way down to Vibe for after hours).

    BTW have you been to “The beer store“, near Da’an Park? It’s a restaurant / bar with IPAs which are still kind of hard to find in Taiwan.

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Spark (and nearby Marquee) were pretty great in 2011/2012, to my recollection. I included Odeon on my previous nightlife round-up, but it’s very student-oriented – not that it’s a bad thing. In my experience, Shida/Gongguan nightlife is more indie-music/alternative focused, and it’s still like that to this day (Fucking Place, Hideout, Korner). I haven’t been to the beer place you’re talking about – but sounds good! I usually just go to Tasting Room (Chuoyinshi) near Zhongxiao Fuxing for beer.

  2. Oh dude. It is so refreshing to hear someone make an honest review on tpe club scene. Not some asskissing review to get in the goods with venue operators.

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Haha yes – it can be hard to find an honest survey (most of the round-ups are literally just a list of places, with no pros and cons; everything is positive and vague and unhelpful). Glad you like the review – would appreciate any feed-back based on your own personal experience.

  3. Cherlene says

    Appreciate this frank and honest write-up. I am traveling to Taipei in December and I hope I won’t be disappointed.

    Alchemy > Woobar> Omni> Chess

    I hope that will be a good enough plan for a good night out

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      I’m sure that you’ll love it! December is a great time to experience nightlife in Taipei.

      Your plan is great – I think that Woobar is better to try on a chill night out (perhaps a weekday) – but that’s just a personal opinion! I would also highly recommend going downstairs to Marquee after Alchemy (they’re in the same building).

  4. Hi Stephanie!

    Your reviews are such a great help! Will definitely be checking out Wootp and Chess for my next trip. I’m planning to do NYE in Taipei this year, do you have any recommendations?

    Cheers,
    Fel

  5. Hey love your suggestions! Am looking for somewhere fun and classy for NYE. My friends and I are converging on Taipei from Australia, HK, Macau and Singapore and definitely not looking for a 22 year old kinda place. I realise we have left it rather late, but any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Hey Amy!

      You definitely have to come to Marquee [I’ll be working the door, so if you see me say hi!]. Marquee is my favorite bar [super amazing drinks, beautiful decor] and it’s located right across from Taipei 101, so one of the best views in the city. Get there fairly early! Here’s the event info for you: https://www.facebook.com/events/1637117486540375/

  6. Sharon says

    Hey Stephanie!

    Thank you for this extremely helpful guide! I’ll be heading to Alchemy tomorrow, would love to hear your suggestions on whether to hit up Marquee or Chess for clubbing afterwards.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Hey Sharon – sorry for the delayed reply. Hope you enjoyed Alchemy – definitely head down to Marquee the next time you’re there for hip-hop and equally good cocktails 🙂

  7. Lee Wetherall says

    Hi, Stephanie! Thanks for the comments on Hideout, notes and adivses taken, sorry about the loud music :p

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Hey Lee –

      Are you affiliated with Hideout? Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a great addition to the neighbourhood and you absolutely can’t hear ANY noise from the outside. Just feel that inside it’s a bit too loud for conversation – but I’ve been several times, and will be back again soon.

  8. Vicky G. says

    Hi Stephanie, my friends and I will be visiting Taipei for the first time this weekend (Feb 19-22). Hoping you could recommend some bars for us to visit! We are just a small group of 30-year-olds (2 couples and 1 single lady) looking to have some great cocktails in nice bars and see what Taiwan nightlife is all about (minus the club scene).

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Ah hey Vicky –

      Sorry for the late response – I hope you had a great visit! In case you visit again: any of the bars listed are pretty great: my personal favorites are Ounce, Wootp, and Marquee/Alchemy.

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