Nihao's It Going?

A Look into Bars in Taipei and Bar Owner Insights: #2 Carnegie’s Taipei

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Carnegie’s is one of the few British bars in Taipei, and as such, I have made quite a few trips here. Unlike a lot of bars I give my patronage to, Carnegie’s is a big place. That might not sound impressive, but it is when you have spent most of your time in bars with ceilings as low as Donald Trump’s approval ratings.

Like I stated with BeerGeek, what I look for in a bar is good company, drinks and atmosphere and Carnegie’s has all these.

The one thing I really like about Carnegie’s though is the decor of the bar and in particular the counter.

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Being a bigger operation than most, you can tell that this bar caters to a wider group of people.

During the daytime it is a restaurant bar and by the time the clock strikes midnight, the place is lit up like Christmas and it feels reminiscent of a lively club scene in Ireland. Although the club scene isn’t something I’m particularly crazy about, I have always had a good time in here.

The crowd that comes here is quite social too and you won’t be strapped for a conversation.

Interview with Carnegie’s General Manager, Niall. 

I was fortunate to meet Niall whilst doing some coverage of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and weirdly enough we bumped into each other in BeerGeek a few weeks back. He was nice enough to answer some questions on the bar he runs and its place in Taipei.

What initially brought you to Taiwan?

I initially came to Taiwan in 1996. My brother, who had already lived here for 7 years needed a hand with a couple of things. I had free time so decided to come for 6 months and ended up staying a little longer.

How would you describe what makes your unique to other bars in the city?

Carnegie’s is a bar, restaurant and club rolled into one which opens from the morning till the early hours of the following morning.

On club nights, our patrons are encouraged to dance on the bar. It usually takes a few drinks for people to pluck up the courage but after midnight you can sometimes see 15 to 20 people up there, dancing to their heart’s content.

I think this is what makes the bar unique.

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Why did you decide on opening your own bar Taipei? (Not Carnegie’s)

I initially started working behind the bar in a pub called DV8 back in 2000. Enjoyed it immensely and decided to open up our own pub with a friend 2 years later.

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What have been the challenges in opening a bar in Taiwan?

Usually the easy part is actually opening the bar but if you haven’t done your homework, problems will start to arise very early on.

There are a number of issues that you have to think about before opening a bar in Taipei. It is important to consider your location very carefully.

The last thing a bar owner wants is angry neighbours because of the noisy emanating from the pub and drunken customers smoking outside.

In regards to licensing, it’s best to contact your accountant if there is a location that interests you. They can usually tell you if it qualifies for a proper license.

And of course, the biggest cost will be the rent. Some areas in the city are a non-starter because of the astronomical fees involved.

I would also add that as fun it might sound drinking with your friends/customers, the hours are long and there is plenty of work to do before and after opening hours. However, the business can be rewarding if you are willing to put the effort in.

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Are you limited in any way to what you can import in Taiwan for your bar and are import taxes an issue for your business?

We do not import directly from overseas as we order through suppliers based here in Taiwan. Imported beer taxes are quite high here which explains in one part the high prices that bars charge.

What is your target customer and how does that affect what you sell?

We don’t have a target customer per se and we get customers from all ages and backgrounds, so we do have to keep abreast of the popular trends of the moment, as well as keeping the older, more traditional customer happy.

That entails what’s been served across the bar and the music pumping out of our DJ booth.

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The growth of craft beer seems to have influenced most bars in Taipei in recent years, has your bar been influenced by this trend?

To a certain extent yes but not half as much as many other bars across the city.

However, we do understand that we have to have a decent selection of craft available while also having the more traditional brands in available as well.

What kind of atmosphere do want in your bar?

During club nights from 10 pm onwards we want a very lively atmosphere where patrons are encouraged to drink, dance and have a merry time.

During dining hours, obviously things are a little quieter where we still have music but the patron is more concentrated on conversation.

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How has the bar scene changed since you first came to Taiwan?

Yes, it has changed quite a lot in the past 20 years or so. The Combat Zone was still a happening place when I arrived but there were very few bars catering to the westerner in downtown Taipei.

That has changed a lot with many bars dotted across the city frequented by foreigners. Lounge bars have grown in popularity over the past 15 years especially with the younger Taiwanese crowd.

And of course, growth of craft beer pubs in the last few years seem to have caught a lot of people’s imagination.

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In general, what are the best and worst parts about running a bar in Taipei?

I get a great kick out of throwing a successful party and having a couple of beers afterwards.

Dealing with people who veer towards the unstable when they have had one too many is one of the unpleasant sides to the business though.

What events do you have coming up soon and what events do you regularly host?

We will be holding an Oktoberfest event starting on Friday September 29th running through till Saturday October 7th in conjunction with Der Löwe Bavarian Restaurant.

We will also have an 80’s Party on Friday October 7th and not to mention our Halloween Fancy Dress Party on October 27th.

And also, Mary’s Doggies Charity will be hosting there annual ‘Dog Days In Drag 5 80’s Night on Saturday October the 15th.It’s for a good cause so please come along and support it if you have the time

(If you would like find more details about these events, check out Carnegie’s Facebook page events here, or their website here.)

Although it can be a bit pricey (although a 10 USD entrance fee on the weekend with a free drink is actually quite generous), Carnegie’s does provide a great atmosphere that few in Taipei can pull off and the choice of drinks and food is very good.

The bar seems to function more like a bar you might see in Dublin, in that the daily cycle goes from a bar restaurant setting, to a more of a bar feel and eventually gearing up for a night of DJs and dancing.

If you have the time, you should check out Carnegie’s for either a quiet drink, a nice meal or some drunken bar counter dancing.

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