Bar hoppers and pub-crawlers are sure to form a deep bond with Shanghai, as this Chinese city has some excellent drinking establishments. It also has some very creative ones, such as the Shelter nightclub, which is actually a real bomb shelter turned into a club. The venue sits on the city’s Yongfu Road and looks like many of the other buildings and bars along the street.
However, as soon as you make your way through the entrance you’ll go down a narrow stairway and then navigate your way through a winding tunnel into the main room of the bar. Once you reach it, you’ll notice the walls are bare and windowless and are made of cement and there’s a bit of a stale smell in the air. You could say it’s a bit clammy and gloomy, but it’s different and the patrons love it.
Before it was turned into a nightclub in 2007, the Shelter was used for several different things, such as an ice storage area, a vegetable market, a public bathhouse and even a massage parlor. It’s about 2,000 square feet in size and has been flooded on a few occasions due to heavy rainstorms. It hasn’t taken long to become one of Shanghai’s most popular clubs as it features several different types of music such as soul and reggae.
The Shelter isn’t the only Chinese building that’s been turned into a thriving business though. There are several others including wine cellars, clothing shops and clubs. There definitely isn’t a shortage of possibilities since bomb shelters were built in the hundreds of thousands across China back in the 1960s and 70s. They were constructed to protect the nation from possible Soviet Union air raids when the two huge communist superpowers were at odds with each other.
Nobody really knows how many bomb shelters were built in Shanghai, but according to the local government, there are approximately 2,000 of them in the city’s Xuhui district, which is the home to many commercial buildings. It’s believed the actual number of shelters isn’t known since it’s a government secret.
When The Soviets and Chinese more or less kissed and made up in the mid 1970s the bomb shelters were gradually uncovered by the government, but it’s believed that just a fraction of them have been converted. This means there are hundreds more that could eventually be turned into trendy shops, restaurants, or clubs etc.
Another shelter that has been converted into a commercial establishment is a men’s underwear shop called MANifesto. It sits next to an underground gay club named the Shanghai Studio. Elsewhere in town is the Ruby Red wine cellar. The former bomb shelter makes it an ideal location for storing wine due to the building’s naturally cool temperature.
It’ll be interesting to see what other ventures take over some of the remaining bomb shelters in Shanghai and other parts of China over the coming years. So far, the public and visitors seem to enjoy the creativity that has been employed in the sites.