Destination Bar in Beijing, China

••• Destination, Beijing's swankiest gay bar. photo by Andrew Collins

When China in general, and Beijing in particular, shifted into crazy-high gear in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics and massive growth as both a business and a leisure destination, the capital city's once non-existent gay nightclub scene finally began to develop. Keep in mind that Shanghai has quite a lot more happening in terms of gay nightlife.

The go-to club on the gay Beijing scene is a cushy, black-on-black dance club and cocktail bar called Destination, which pulls in a mix of trendy young Chinese residents, corporate mavericks from points afar, and hip expats - it's a mostly male bunch, but plenty of women come here, too. The club consists of a handful of bars and seating areas, generally with plush, low-slung seating and soft lighting. A DJ spins the usual Western pop and club hitsĀ and strobe lights cast a colorful glow upon the compact but busy dance floor.

Weekdays can be a little quiet here, but Destination kicks into high gear Wednesday (for its popular midweek celebration), Friday, and Saturday nights.

The bar is just across the street from a strip of glam hetero nightspots by the West Gate of Worker's Stadium, a generally bustling neighborhood of eastern Beijing's Chaoyang area, close to the expat-infested Sanlitun Bar Street. You'll find several slick, gay-friendly restaurants within a 15-minute walk, including romantic Mare (for stellar Spanish tapas) and cozy Alameda (a fashionable, cozy bistro serving fusion Asia-meets-Brazil fare).

Most of the friendly staffers speak a bit of English, enough to cheerfully fill drink orders. And cocktails are quite reasonable. Destination appears to be a promising sign of what lies ahead for gay Beijing.