The never-ending soap opera that is Yashow Market took another giant step towards its inevitable conclusion over the weekend as the powers that be locked access to the entire interior of the market, likely in an attempt to package the property for sale or lease to someone who perhaps knows what they are doing.

While some departing vendors have been given vague promises of the venue re-opening sometime next year, our take is: don't bet on it, at least not in its current incarnation.

Once a decade-long success as a bastion of tourist and expat bargaining and and a must-see stop for every out-of-towner, the market was initially closed on December 31, 2014, and nine months later reborn as a terrible attempt at an upscale boutique

Since its reopening almost exactly one year ago on September 18, it's been a slow, steady decline. For a while, the Cheers wine store gave it a faint glimmer of hope with some fun activities that brought life back into the structure, until that was closed too.

The tourist hordes never came back following the Yashow 'upgrade,' and those that did found the market to be a terrible substitute for the old Yashow and an embarrassing attempt to capture the upscale feel of next door Taikoo Li.

Most of the vendors who took a chance on the new property bailed a long time ago, leaving a few lonely-looking boutiques and a few tailors to fight for the rare customer that wandered in.

The contrast could not have been more blinding from the once bustling market that, for almost a decade, was the go-to place for cheap clothes, DVDs, shoes, suitcases, and tailors. Where once there were lines to even get on an escalator, more recently the place had turned into a ghost town.

That being said, when we went to investigate what had become of the building, a number of shoppers were milling around ogling the locked doors with disappointment.

Some outside-facing vendors such as Burger King, a coffee shop, and a beauty parlor remain open, but access to the indoor areas is now locked. A sign outside directs people to try a side door, but when we tried, we were swiftly told by security guards that no vendors remained inside.

Access to the 6th and 7th floors, which contain a mahjong parlor and a tattoo parlor (that allegedly also once doubled as a lesbian club), were never closed during the market's machinations, remain open via the same west-side entry as always.

Those vendors that have fled are most likely licking their wounds elsewhere given that the rental costs for a 20-square-meter shop set sellers back RMB 21,000 per month, plus an average decoration fee of RMB 100,000 and a shop registration of RMB 100,000, as reported by Beijing Today. As the shop owners would be required to pay a non-refundable year's worth of rent in advance, 40-square-meter shops stand to lose between a whopping RMB 600,000 to RMB 1 million.

God knows how long they will remain closed: some loitering around outside claim it will be some time next year, but our guess is there's no plan in place. We first got a whiff of its potential closure in July, and the stink got worse on Thursday last week, when one of our staff approached Yashow's marketing department to see if we could work together on an event on one of their vacant floors. After double-checking that our staff was not a club-wielding tenant wanting to break their legs, the on-site staff said they had ceased all marketing and promotion activities and planned on waiting for all the remaining tenants to leave so that the property could be packaged for handover to a new developer or management company.

So what is to become of the building? Who knows, though a return to its glory days seems unlikely due to the municipal government's plan to shut all the affordable markets in Beijing and shuttle them off to the distant suburbs. Likewise there hardly seems room for another collection of high-end boutiques a la Taikoo Li. Only time will tell.

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Photos: Kyle Mullin

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