The Lush Story
Lush was born during the SARS breakout of 2003. Whilst most expats ran for the hills, a handful of us more hardy/delusional types decided to ride it out. As all the local restaurants and bars got closed down, my humble apartment became the new Wudaokou hotspot. But after 3 months of house parties (and couch surfers!) I was over it. So along with my good mates Lucy Hu and Jeremy Johnston we decided to set up a new hangout for the “Wu Crew”. We found a good spot, then furnished it super cheap, mostly by cleaning out my apartment! As my first F&B venture it was pretty rough going, but from that first epic night we knew that we’d stumbled onto something special – a sanctuary from the day to day China chaos; a place to recharge your batteries and connect with others.
And in true Wudaokou fashion, it started to get out of control. Lush was originally supposed to be a daytime study spot, a cafe hangout with a bit of food, and maybe a few drinks later on. The problem was the dinner crowd, who would stay for a few drinks, and then NEVER LEAVE. It got to the point where I just strung up a hammock and slept there an hour or two before I’d have to open for breakfast again. And that was the first 6 months – one hell of a blur!
The place got more and more popular. Jeremy left to pursue his Hip Hop dream, so I brought in some hired guns. Kitchen goddess Andrea Gabel took over the food, marketing ninja Rich Akers did promotions and design, party-starter Skott Taylor managed events and Dan Stephenson ramped up the bar. Along with myself and Lucy, this was the core Lush team during it’s start-up phase of 2004-2006.
The bar was cranking, the dance floor hopping and the balcony smoking (yes, there was a balcony). It was the place to go to meet your mates, and if you didn’t have any, it was the place to meet. And that was it; the key to Lush was people. Genuine characters that shared one thing in common; we were all far away from home on what was our greatest adventure. China was booming, the Olympics coming fast, and we knew we were part of something big.
Many years have gone by. Many have come and gone. But the energy that you feel when you walk into Lush remains the same. “Leave your attitude at the door” was the philosophy… and it remains true 10 years on. Most of the original team have moved on. Andrea got married, Lucy, Rich and I headed downtown to start Gung Ho! Pizza but led by Josh and our killer crew of hosts, our local team keep the old school vibe alive. Good people bring good energy and good energy brings good business. The philosophy that started with Lush, now guides all of my ventures.
Ten years on, my biggest takeaway from this humble hole in the wall is that happiness lies as much between us, as within us. As expats we learn pretty quickly that when you surround yourself with like-minded people, people that support you, challenge you, and are there for you, then your worries slip away. Any place that can help you with this has meaning in the world… and if one can get a little ‘Lush’ in the process, then all the better.
Jade Gray, 2013 ~ Founder of Lush
The YEN Great Wall Rave
Lush laoban Jade Gray partnered with YEN’s Kiko Su very early on, getting to make Beijing history at the very first Great Wall rave. Following a week of heavy rainfall, numerous cancellations and a lost bus here and there, 2000 courageous ravers finally found themselves under a clear night sky at one of the best parties China has ever seen.
Lush ran two bars, one at the main stage at the foot of the wall, another up in the Syndicate Drum’n’Bass stage up in the guard tower along the wall. It was one hell of a crazy night, and one we were proud to be part of.
The Syndicate Drum’n’Bass
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Lush launched, it became a showcase for what were then underground Beijing-based DJ’s. We’d black out the windows and setup huge speakers and subwoofers and party ’til dawn. All the greats played Lush. Big name Beijing beat-mixers Usami, Patrick Yu and Yang Bing were all regular fixtures.
All this set the stage for our short-lived but magnificent club ZUB. This little club became one of the hottest places for underground house, techno and hip-hop hosting such seminal DJ’s as Grand Daddy Suki, Dio, Mickey Zhang, DJ Wordy and more! ZUB was also the birthplace of the first Drum’n’Bass event in China, and the homebase of the Blackie and Hayden and the rest of the crew that brought it, The Syndicate. Big Up.
The #Winningest Student Hangout of All Time
Since 2003 Lush and Pyro have won over 40 F&B and nightlife awards, including Best Student Hangout every year since it’s inception in 2005 – that’s 13 times! Along the way we’ve also won awards such as: Best Value, Best Bar Food, Best Bartender, Friendliest Crowd, Best Quiz Night and Best Open Mic.
We’re super proud of all of these awards and we’ll never stop making Lush and Pyro the best and most student-friendly spot in Wudaokou.
The Lush 10th Anniversary
In 2013, Lush passed a massive milestone and become a true Beijing landmark. Ten years is a long time for any business, let alone a bar or restaurant. But we love it. We’re not going anywhere. After all this time, it’s still our Homebase, and we hope it’s yours too.