William R. Morledge
Hardly 'Breaking News', Clinton Plaza's closing went almost unnoticed last month, when the last remaining venue, the Living Room pulled its roller-shutter down for the last time in the wee hours of 07 June 2003. This date will be of more interest to historians than the night-crawling expat community, however, as the Plaza's slow and agonizing wind-down has been a full year in the making. (See last July's "CLINTON PLAZA - ALREADY DEAD?"). By December of last year, only Bill's Coffee Shop, the Living Room, and Monica's remained open; the Plaza had become a pale shadow of the former, thriving Night Entertainment Area of two years previous.
But the Plaza's story began some five years ago. A small cluster of unnamed bar beers which appeared behind the abandoned bank building in late 1998 continued to grow in number, despite a seemingly poor location. As the area grew in size and popularity, it was briefly named "Entertainment Plaza" before being renamed 'Clinton Plaza' in June of 1999. The detailed history of Clinton Plaza can be read HERE.
From those modest beginnings at the end of 1998, through the beginning of 2000, Clinton Plaza experienced an accelerated growth rate. As it grew, so did the belief that it would become a major Night Entertainment Area; its success feeding on itself. By the end of March, 2000, the first A-Go-Go bar, Flowers, opened its doors to the public. By that time, there were a total of 22 bars and lounges in Clinton Plaza. There was also a boxing ring and a good restaurant (Tivoli). The construction 'explosion' continued, and by December of 2000 there were six A-Go-Go bars in the compound, with plans for dozens more. It looked like Clinton Plaza was on its way. The developers had drawn up plans to have five floors of lounges and/or A-Go-Go bars in the main building, and the large warehouse in the rear was to be ringed with one and two storey A-Go-Go bars. Once completed, it would be one of the largest Night Entertainment Areas in Bangkok. But the sound of distant thunder could be heard, as storms brewed on the horizon.
In August of 2001, there were six nearly simultaneous bar closures; five of those were A-Go-Go bars. The outside world originally thought there had been a police crack-down on the Night Entertainment Area, however word leaked out later that there was a dispute over ownership of the land and the legality of the existing bar leases. Over the next few months it appeared that most of the lease problems were worked out; by the end of the year only the Rock Hard A-Go-Go had not yet reopened; the White House A-Go-Go having only just reopened its doors.
But the handwriting was on the wall. None of the expansive development plans had been implemented despite rumored new deep-pocketed investors from the Middle East, then Pattaya. Clinton Plaza had begun to stagnate - with bar closings outnumbering bar openings (down to 18 venues from a high of 23 the year before). By June of 2002, there was once again rampant speculation that something was amiss in the Plaza. The Rock Hard A-Go-Go never reopened there, deciding to take its chances in Nana Plaza. The Dollhouse, accepting the inevitable, began renovations on the old Hare & Hound in preparation for its move to Soi Cowboy. Although the White House A-Go-Go finally reopened in December '01, it closed once, and for all, four months later.
In July of 2002 the old White House premises were demolished. That same month, large signs were put up around the Plaza which read:
"Notice: Ritchie Center and Supply Company Limited are the sole legal owners of this land and all the buildings on it. Individuals may not enter without first obtaining permission. Failing to do so is breaking the law, and Ritchie Center and Supply Co, Ltd will prosecute those violators to the extent of the law." The rumors, the speculation, could no longer be denied.
While construction engineers shut down the large warehouse area in the rear, the remaining bar owners ignored the signs and continued to open for business, as usual. But business was not 'as usual'; the bar owners, insisting they held valid leases. were claiming they were being harassed and intimidated by the 'new' land owners. Bill's Coffee Shop reported that the issue was taken before the authorities, and the leases were considered to be valid; in the final reckoning, it would be a matter of attrition, and/or the land owners having to buy up the bar leases.
Construction crews began taking core samples throughout the compound for what was to be 'a large five-star hotel'. As bars closed, and areas within the Clinton Plaza compound became vacant, they were barricaded off. The process continued; as additional bars closed, their premises were absorbed behind the creeping construction barricade, leaving finally only the strip of bars fronting on Sukhumvit road. In the end, it was both attrition and buy-outs which finally culminated in this June's closing.
The second of two 'opportunistic' Night Entertainment Areas to close this year, Clinton Plaza could never lay claim to the popularity of the other established areas like Soi Cowboy or Nana Plaza. Nevertheless, it had a measurable impact on the Night Scene. In its checkered five year existence it spawned a number of A-Go-Go bars, lounges, Pool Bars and bar beers that have relocated to such diverse locations as Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, Cowboy Annex, Sukhumvit Square, "13 Night Market". and Queen's Park Plaza. While Clinton Plaza winked out of existence with a 'whimper' as opposed to the 'bang' of Sukhumvit Square, it has nevertheless notched a place in the collective memory, and rates at least a footnote in the ongoing history of the Bangkok Night Scene.
June's Follies Begin Here...
presents the NEWS
on the Bangkok Night Scene
; - the 'history-in-the-making'
for all major Night Entertainment Areas
for the month ending 30 June, 2003 :
The Pussy Collection
, reported closed in these pages last month, plans to reopen elsewhere on Patpong I
sometime in the next sixty days. There may be a name change in the offing, but will have the same owners. PATPONG I
disco, above King's Corner
on Soi Bookstore PATPONG I
is closed - its darkened stairway littered with trash.
The tentatively named Thailand Traditional Massage
is opening in the building across from Foodland
on the 4th floor in the old PP Massage
digs. The ambiguity quotient is reported to be high. PATPONG II
As reported elsewhere, Playskool A-Go-Go
is under renovation, but not previously mentioned is its bar beer outside is still rocking. Expect them to reopen the interior at the end of the month. NANA PLAZA
Renovations are proceeding at a fever pitch in the old Rock Hard/Vixens
A-Go-Go. It looks like they will reopen as a two-storey bar (2nd & 3rd floors.) They could be back at full throttle by the end of the month. NANA PLAZA
, on the second floor, has closed for renovations and a name change. It is now sporting a new sign: Mercury Club
. The third and fourth floors immediately above it are already well into renovations, and rumor has it they will be incorporated into a multi-floor bar of the same ilk as the Mandarin
, located at the opposite corner. NANA PLAZA
has, as predicted, reopened. Let the good times roll. NANA PLAZA
The two storey Speed
(1st) / Hip Hop
(2nd) has re-re-reopened. SOI KATOEY
Lets see if it (they) can stay open long enough this time around to start building a customer base...
After multi-million baht renovations of the old Rome Club
, the new Samsara
has called it an evening after only only three months in the game. Hardened steel padlocks dangle from blackened doors. Wasting no time, their next door neighbors The Balcony
, have already stuck their own decals on the Samsara's
windows and are using their sidewalk area as expanded outdoor seating. SOI KATOEY
Among the first to fall in the now-collapsing Cowboy Annex
is the At-10 2 Bar
. Some of you will remember that the original At-10 Bar & Pool
beer bar was among those demolished in the middle of the night at Sukhumvit Square
on 26 January of this year. There is no word yet as to where, or if, the At-10
The Only You Bar
has also exited the scene. Known as Princess Bar
before their forced exodus from Sukhumvit Square
, they lasted only four months here at Cowboy Annex
. A balloon arcade game now fills the void.
bar beer, opened in September of 2001, has also folded its cards and cashed in its few remaining chips. Only a cold steel roller-shutter greets the rain-soaked passers-by. COWBOY ANNEX
bar beer, open only last month, now sports her new sign. Alas, it was put up just in time to be taken down again - the bar beer will close in the early days of this month (July). They are looking for new digs; a couple of likely plots on Sukhumvit Soi 22 are being considered. COWBOY ANNEX
SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
The Akane Fashion Massage
has opened in the old Athena Massage
digs inside the Peep Inn SOI DEAD ARTISTS
. It's too new to adequately assess the 'ambiguity quotient', but as it is aimed primarily at the surrounding Japanese market, the original estimates are high. MIDNITE HOUR
will keep you informed. (A fashion massage
!? We'll try one, and let you know.)
Still in the Peep Inn
compound, up on the second floor, the Club Ayano
has opened its doors. Well, at any rate, if you happen to be Japanese, its doors have been opened. We wish them every success. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
bar beer has changed its sign to New Friends
. An historical note only - the beat goes on in the pleasantly cool rainy-season atmosphere. QUEENS PARK PLAZA
While we are on new signs, the bar beer that has remained nameless since its opening at Queen's Park Plaza
in September of 2002 has put up its brand new sign. It has kept its Top Secret
monicker from its original location in the now defunct Clinton Plaza
The Crystal Bar
in the center section WASHINGTON SQ
is closed again. The stacks of concrete blocks, and piles of sand, and the burlap sacks full of rubble accurately indicate a renovation in progress. Give them at least a month to finish up and reopen.
The Living Room
lounge, as mentioned above, was Clinton Plaza's
last soldier standing. As it closed its doors for the last time on 7 July, the construction barricades were thrown up across its entranceway, and the destruction of the old compound began in earnest.
"13 NIGHT MARKET"
The new sign of the tiny bar beer facing the sidewalk reads Catch Up Bar
. They are looking busier than a month ago, but with only six barstools, they can't get much busier... "13 NIGHT MARKET"
The Chemo 04
, also facing the sidewalk, has her new sign up as well. "13 NIGHT MARKET"
Looking busier than ever - whatever they are doing right, they should keep doing it.
New to the tiny compound is the Sweet Home Bar
. Many will remember the Sweet Home
as the seminal bar, the bar that started things rolling in Sukhumvit Square
at the turn of the Millennium. Welcome back to the brierpatch. "13 NIGHT MARKET"
The To Day Airport Bar 2
(no kidding) has opened what may be the smallest bar beer in the world. They are getting their foot in the door while the gettin' is good, as the original To Day Airport Bar
in Cowboy Annex
will be forced to close when its contract runs out this year. Keep on keeping on. "13 NIGHT MARKET"
The No-News-Is Good-News Dept.
TOBACCO ROAD (Soi Zero)