Sun, Jun 11, 2006 - Page 23 News List

The screen's small, but late at night there's space, man

By Sean Scanlan  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

A small, after-hours bar catering to English teachers and late-night drinkers will be showing the majority of World Cup matches on a modest 20-inch screen.

What it may lack in screen size, Spaceman on Renai Rd makes up for with extended opening hours, best described as "sun-up," making it one location where fanatics can watch most World Cup matches starting at 3am, such as tonight's contest between Portugal and Angola.

Since installing a satellite dish two months ago, Spaceman has been drawing a soccer crowd, particularly for weekend broadcasts of the English Premier League.

College-aged Tobias Chen, sporting Germany's black and white jersey, plans to watch the majority of World Cup games at Spaceman. He came to German soccer via a family friend and still remembers German's bitter, quarter-final defeat at the hands of Bulgaria in 1994.

He was visibly nervous when Costa Rica leveled at 1-1 early in the first half, and didn't seem to mind as the majority of the crowd rooted for underdogs Costa Rica.

Then, as Germany coasted to a comfortable second-half lead, most patrons devoted their energy to animated conversation or hard drinking, such as mugs of Kahlua and milk or the Belgian beer Maredsous.

The lopsided lead also proved a godsend for those standing at the back craning to see.

"We don't plan to install any more TV monitors in here; there simply isn't enough space," said bartender and co-owner Niall Clinton.

But there is a clear, surround-sound speaker system audible even in the recesses of Spaceman's raised seating area, which makes up nearly one-quarter of the total bar area.

Most patrons, however, found themselves standing, resting their drinks on elbow-high shelves or pressing themselves against a wall decorated with 4x6 photos from a charity visit to a local cancer ward by Clinton and elder brother Paul.

For the past eight years, Paul Clinton has visited children afflicted with cancer, a personal undertaking inspired by his ex-wife's battle with breast cancer. Recently, his personal efforts have been aided by an oversized tips jar emblazoned with the words "Karma Fund," with proceeds going to various charities, including a scholarship fund for indigenous children attending the Laonung Elementary School in Kaohsiung County.

Paul Clinton's wife Xiao-luo created the fund with the goal of supporting causes such as fighting cancer and children's education.

Fundraising was the main reason behind Spaceman's recent World Cup sweepstake, attracting 48 participants who pai an entry fee of NT$500 for the chance to pull two random World Cup teams out of a hat, with 20 percent of the money going to the fund.

Including tips and loose change, the Karma Fund hopes to raise NT$20,000 for the month.

Spaceman will open for most late-night World Cup broadcasts, except on Mondays, when the staff will take a break.

Unfortunately, Spaceman's days as a football-watching, English-teacher clubhouse are numbered, as the building's owner will renovate at the end of the year, in line with neighboring buildings on the swank intersection of Kuangfu and Renai Rds.

For a bar reportedly named after one investor's initial skepticism -- "Where's the space, man?" -- it has done quite well in its small, humble niche.

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