Joyce is not here, anymore

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Photo by Roger Price

Cult artist bar Joyce is not here sadly closes after eight creative years on Peel St. Anna Cummins spoke to owner Joyce Peng about the reasons she’s calling it a night.

Peel Street will be a little quieter, and will have a lot less soul after July 28, when artist bar and cult hangout Joyce is Not Here closes its doors after eight years. Taking its name from the fact that owner Joyce Peng was often too busy with her interior design job to get to her bar, the family-run space has long been a welcome haven for creative types.

Owner Joyce Peng told Time Out about the free-spirited nature of her bar. “I like the concept of doing whatever you dream of; no rules, no boundaries... don't care about others, live your own way,” says Peng, who also runs Peel Fresco jazz bar just across the road. “For example, our opening hours are from 4:53pm until we get tired, and we have sad hour, instead of happy hour. It never really seemed like running a business, it was more freestyle.”

It’s certainly a dark day for the artistic and musical scene in Hong Kong, and there have been many people shocked and saddened by this announcement. The bar is closing for two reasons. Firstly, the rent was recently hiked by 80 percent, rendering the space simply unaffordable. Secondly, a barrage of noise complaints from neighbours has meant that the bar was shortly to lose its alcohol license. Joyce asserts that “97 percent of the noise complaints found nothing [no basis for complaint]… we have been harassed by someone who wants to kill Peel Street.”

The bar opened back in 2005. Joyce remembers ‘I just wanted to create a place to gather with designers, architects, artists, filmmakers... just like the places we always go in Toronto’. This concept café quickly developed into a hub for the local artistic scene, with the bar continuously packing an impressively eclectic schedule of performances – including poetry Wednesdays, open mic Thursdays and movie nights on Sundays, with world class Jazz on Friday and Saturdays; alongside rotating art exhibitions, band performances, jam sessions and comedy gigs. And when we ask Joyce what her personal highlights over the years have been, she simply declares, “forgive me, really (there have been) too many nice people and nice happenings here, that I can't list them at all!”

There is, thankfully, some good news though – Joyce is Not Here’s sister bar, Peel Fresco Music Lounge, is still just across the street and will, hopefully, manage to remain alive and kicking for a while yet. In the meantime, Joyce will remain as busy as ever. “I want to focus on my interior design business for a while and make some money first… aha, I have really contributed all my savings into this bar and into Peel Fresco.” Joyce also reveals that a movie about the bar is potentially in the making. “Then, I think I will start to write down all the touching stories of these eight years here on Peel Street. Maybe can find a sponsor to make a movie as well, because I also studied film making last year as a very bad student!”

The good news is that Joyce hasn’t let these events faze her. “I think I will reopen next year sometime; still in Central, but I’m not sure where or exactly when,” she says. For the bar’s final few weeks, Joyce has curated an expectedly eclectic schedule (here - on.fb.me/1dhz2Yz), which definitely deserves to be checked out.

Pay Joyce a visit and say bye before July 28, at Shop D, G/F, 38-44 Peel Street, Central.

 

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