Sukhumvit Square 'Explosion'
Bangkok, 09 June 02
William R. Morledge
In case any of you haven't noticed, across the street from Clinton Plaza, there is a low-lying complex of mostly temporary structures which starts at the top of Soi 10, and works its way half way to Soi 8. The sign above reads Sukhumvit Square. I am told by our historian, "Boge" Hartman, that the sign once read, "Thai Help Thai" - some of you may remember the mentality at, and just after the crash of '97.... Boge says he will be doing a Map and History for Bangkok Eyes 'one of these days'. I'll believe it when I see it...
As late as last year, there was only one sleepy little bar-beer there, the Sweet Home Bar. Since then, one or two other places opened inside, but the area could hardly be called a Night Entertainment Center. In January of this year (2002), there were 5 venues, including the air-conditioned Tippler's Tavern in the rear. In February, there were 14 venues, which included the new 8-Pak Happy Today. The 'Explosion' had begun. At the beginning of June there were 37 night entertainment venues open for business - not counting others being renovated and newly constructed. Another way to say the same thing; Sukhumvit Square has grown from nowhere to one of Bangkok's largest expat bar areas in less than 5 months.
Gossip on the block since the end of April -and I do mean gossip- is that "new money" is in town, perhaps from Chonburi, and they intend to develop and lease out up to 100 bars and lounges there, to include A-Go-Go bars. If even half of this gossip is true, it could make Sukhumvit Square the biggest Night Entertainment Area in Bangkok. Yours Truly, sincerely doubts this will come to pass, however, at least as long as there is an element of Purachiian puritanism lurking in the nighttime breezes. It seems there also might be a problem finding custom for that many venues, if Cowboy Annex is any indication. Wish them all the best.
Time for the monthly roundup of bars "in transition", and as we are already at Sukhumvit Square, I'll start here. Bangkok Eyes welcomes the following new venues who opened their doors in May 2002: The Kat Beer Bar, the bar-beer Bar Sanuk, the Lemon Tree, the Infinity Bar & Karaoke, the Friend Bar, the unusually named @ Ease, as well as the Relax Bar. And last but not least, the Gemini, which takes over from the Wild Plum.
The Rolls Royce Bar bar-beer (facing Soi 10) has reopened; welcome back. Jo Jo's Bar is closed and renovating into something bigger and better than ever. The bar-beer Harry Potter is closed, and they have told me they will be reopening on Soi 4 sometime this month (June 2002). Inside the Happy Today 8-Pak, the California has taken over the reins from the original Sport 2 bar-beer.
While we are still in Sukhumvit Square, is Speto calling it a day? I'll take a second look, but it looked awfully dark there the other evening...
On Patpong II, the Eden Foam Bar closed after a 2-month run. I must say, I am not surprised; while getting full marks for originality, one is hardly attracted to barmaids dancing, fully dressed, in foam up to their waists, behind a rectangular bar. I'm not making any of this up. Too bad if you missed it - I'm sure it will never pass this way again. Better luck next time, guys.
The Pink Piano Bar & Lounge (the upstairs half of what used to be the Pink Panther ) is closed. The door touts say, "No business." (Patpong II)
Bobby's Deli, aka Bobby's Hotdog, aka the Aroy Dee is now the proud owner of a new sign: same good food, but it is now the Marco Polo. (Patpong II)
The soi between Patpongs I & II has been called Soi Bat Boat and Soi Bookstore, but doesn't really have a name. Nevertheless, it has Night Entertainment Venues - and the Platinum has just reopened in the 2nd floor area that was the King's Lounge Disco Tech. Welcome aboard.
Meanwhile in Clinton Plaza, the re-renamed Tivoli Bar and Girl (sic) has just been renamed again, this time to Charlie's Angels.
Still in Clinton Plaza, the Hollywood A Go Go East has closed it's doors. Again. Clinton Plaza seems to have stagnated. Original efforts to populate the upstairs with an assortment of Night Entertainment Venues have failed. Plans to ring the parking lot - first with bar-beers, then with 2-storey AGo-Go bars have never taken off. Existing AGo-Go bars are lying dormant. I suspect a shake-up is needed, if indeed that is even possible at this juncture.
In Tobacco Road (until someone changes the sign again it's 'Soi Zero'), the Blue Sky Bar has opened up between Wanida and the Bottoms Up. Welcome aboard.
Silom Soi 4 - Soi Katoey - the g-4 has closed its doors. For good? One never knows on Soi Katoey, as the venues often will just quietly close down for a period, only to just as quietly reopen at some future time.
The big news about to break on Soi Katoey is that Bobby's Arms will be opening its new Restaurant - Bar - Lounge sometime this month (June). I did the 'Cook's Tour' of the premisis last week - 5 shophouses wide, upstairs and downstairs, and one of the longest bars in Bangkok. The music system promises to be top-of-the-line.
Opening shortly after Bobby's Arms is 'Superstar' Frank's "Noreiga's", -just across the soi from Bobby's Arms on Soi Katoey. It looks like Noreiga's will finally be opening in late June or early July, and, while smaller than Bobby's Arms, Noriega's should definitely give them some competition.
Several changes during the month of May are noted in Queen's Park Plaza (Soi 22), Pen has closed its shutters, as has the Laguna Restaurant. The Ngan Hang has closed and is undergoing extensive renovations. Oraphin has completed her move from the small side strip to the main area in the back - and its a big improvement; good luck. The Why Not ? has reopened after an unexplained 2 month layoff. There are 2 new kids on the block; the On The Rocks, and the IQ Karaoke (Japanese). Welcome aboard.
In Soi Cowboy, closed again is Juke's New A Go Go Duck - after just having undergone extensive renovations. Doesn't look healthy.
In Cowboy Annex, several changes have been noted in the month of May, and not all of them for the good. The entire back half of Lolita's Corner (which was originally destined for a 6-pak of bar-beers) now has a Muay Thai boxing ring. Rumor has it -and it is just a rumor, mind you- that Chonburi money is here, too, and they have 'sponsored' the boxing ring. Can they help it if people are gambling on the outcome of the fights? This is the second time they have tried boxing at the Cowboy Annex; the first try was in February of 2000, and it lasted 3 months before failing miserably. When it disappeared so did the sleazy element; one hopes the same fate will befall the new boxing ring.
Still in Cowboy Annex, both Luc's and the Name Pa (Pah) bar-beers have reopened; welcome back. Night Eyes Karaoke (local) and Dinosaur (local) have called it a night - nothing but darkened interiors. The new Nok Merry now calls itself the Nok Merry Bar 2, which begs the question.... An interesting turn of events; the bars on that side of Cowboy Annex, which include the Prime Bar, and Your Friend Bar (no sign), as well as the Nok Merry Bar 2 seem to have customers almost exclusively from the African continent.
The open-fronted Nancy Bar on the 2nd floor of Nana Plaza appears to have called it an evening. Shutters down & locked.
Soi Dead Artists (Sukhumvit 33) appears to have been doing some general belt-tightening in May. The Blue Marine Pub & Restaurant, the Entertainment Club Fuchicho 1997, and the 33 Center Pub have turned out the lights - shutters down and locked. On the up-side, the Suika (Japanese) finally finished renovations in the rear of 33 Complex, and is open for business.