In Turin during the 2006 Winter Olympics the Budweiser house was known as THE place to party. In Beijing, the Budweiser house — dubbed Club Bud — sits in the shadow of the Holland Heineken House at the sprawling National Agricultural Exhibition Center. The Holland Heineken House has been party central for the Dutch, drawing big, boisterous and very orange crowds.
The folks at Budweiser had a lot to live up to. Never mind that Anheuser-Busch will be swallowed up by a Belgian conglomerate, InBev, when a merger is completed between the two brewing giants. "The Great American Lager" still had to throw the great Olympic party.
Club Bud, a 3,700 square meter dance club and lounge, is Budweiser's large footprint in Beijing. The dance floor section of the club features not one, not two but five DJs (and their entourage) spinning music at ear-drum shattering levels. Naturally, the local go-go dancers were a hit with the male clientele.
The club also had an outdoor patio seemingly modeled after the hotel bar at The Standard. Partiers could lounge in cabanas that ringed the off-limits pool (off limits until drunken revelers were compelling to jump in). It's what I imagine the rec room and backyard of August A. Busch IV, Anheuser-Busch's chief executive and president, look like.
And the coup de grace? Free, unlimited beer. Just Budweiser, although one could get Coronas outside. On this account, Club Bud had the Holland Heineken House beat. (one big difference, however: Club Bud is a private party house while the Heineken House is open to the public).
Sunday night, I headed to Club Bud to attend their "Water Party." The Club Bud representatives — sadly, not the Wassup guys — were anticipating a large crowd, enough to fill the massive space which holds more than 2,000 people. The first week of the Olympics was over, and many athletes were finished with competition. Club Bud rolled out the red carpet for them. The ones who had won medals could drink like a champion, literally. That must be a good feeling.
Among the celebs spotted: Carl Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Cullen Jones, gymnasts from the U.S. men's bronze medal-winning team, gold medal-winning rowers and a man with slicked back hair who looked important (a dead ringer for sports scribe Frank Deford). And tall people. Really, really tall people who were probably athletes. The average height at Club Bud must have been 6-foot-1 — and that's just for the women.
For most partiers it was a game of "who are you and what did you win?" The athletes who wore their medals were mobbed by people with cameras. Some athletes, like the U.S. rowers, were even letting people wear their medals for the photos. No word if they had already insured their medals before heading out to Club Bud.
The taps were still pouring pints well past 3 a.m. — Club Bud wasn't closing until 4 a.m. People weren't only double-fisting beers, they were triple and quadruple-fisting. The unlimited beer also hastened international relations, especially on the dance floor. The pickup line of choice: "Ni Hao?"
At 3:30 the dance floor was still grooving, but the lounge was clearing out. Some people, perhaps already nursing hangovers, were sleeping (passed out) on the chairs, half-full cups of beer on the table or in their hands.
Although Club Bud might not be THE place to party in Beijing — there are too many choices and competition in this metropolis — it certainly earned a place on the partying podium. And Budweiser would probably say cheers to that.