Restaurants in Beijing university district ordered to only allow 10 foreigners in at a time

The temporary restriction expires two days after the end of the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress in Beijing

Recently, images of notices posted at several Beijing restaurants limiting the number of foreigners that can be inside at one time have been making the rounds on WeChat, perplexing and worrying expats.

“Until March 22, every Friday night and Saturday, as requested by local authorities, we can only allow a maximum of 10 foreigners in our store at a time,” reads a notice posted on the door of Pyro Pizza.

“We appreciate your understanding during these challenging times. If you have any questions, please contact us over WeChat.”

While the notice fails to explain exactly what “challenging times” we are in, it’s assumed that the phrase refers to China’s annual parliamentary sessions, currently ongoing in Beijing. The restriction ends two days after the National People’s Congress adjourns.

Though large political events do invariably see security tighten up in China’s capital city — for instance, all Beijing Airbnb listings have been suspended this month — placing a limit on the maximum number of foreigners that a pizzeria can host is certainly a new twist in China’s reform and opening up.

Pyro Pizza is a popular hangout for students in the university district of Wudaokou. The pizzeria’s sister café, Lush, has also posted the same notice.

While this limit may seem completely preposterous, an employee at the pizzeria told the South China Morning Post that police had, in fact, made the request and had since returned for regular checks to make sure that the restaurant was complying with the restriction.

“We were told that if we did not comply, our business would be shut down immediately,” the worker said.

Another employee claimed that the restaurant was ordered to not allow foreigners inside after 8 pm.

“There are police officers patrolling outside every night. Plus, there are security cameras everywhere in the restaurant and on the street — the feeds are all connected to police stations,” the employee explained.

A manager at the pizza shop told SCMP that police had issued the notice against big groups of foreigners last Monday, on the first day of the NPC, giving no reasons for the restrictions.

Meanwhile, an anonymous source has said to the Beijinger that the restrictions were handed down at an open forum meeting last week to “over 100 service-related industries in Wudaokou” — including all of the area’s restaurants and bars.

However, staff at a number of other establishments in the area told the outlet that they had not heard anything about enforcing these kind of restrictions and had posted no notices to that effect.

Making this matter even more puzzling, an officer who oversees Wudaokou restaurants told SCMP that the police had imposed no limits on the number of foreign customers that an establishment was allowed to host at one time.

“We’ve never issued such a notice. We merely told bars and restaurants to control the total number of customers during peak hours, without making any specific requirements,” the officer said, while adding that such reminders were not out of the ordinary.

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