Bangkok's Night Scene in review
Soi 10 Survivors
- WHERE ARE THEY NOW ?
Bangkok, 01 March 2003
William R. Morledge
The SUKHUMVIT SQUARE Story The SUKHUMVIT SQUARE StoryThe rape of Sukhumvit Square Night Entertainment Area (Soi 10) by a combination of the country's two institutional Mafias is now history. The police on the one hand are accusing renegade military persons and their private companies, while the other "institutional", the military, is saying that while they would do nothing to prevent the guilty from being brought to justice, they would not stand idly by while military persons were prosecuted and certain elements of the police went without having to answer to the same justice. Translation: "You drag me through the mud, I drag you through the mud, and you don't want that." Net result; a stalemate - we should not ever expect to see a meaningful resolution of this atrocious incident. Depending on the lasting quality of commitment of P.M. Taxin's promise to not let Mafia elements get away with anything on his watch, we may at most see a scapegoat or two paraded before us. (In Taxin's 'defense' it must be said that he uttered that promise before he was informed of which Mafias were involved, and didn't realize his hands were tied....)
Within ten days of Sukhumvit Square being ripped asunder, Nickel Co. Ltd. posted signs, one of which read, "To Persons Doing Business (here). Nickel Co. Ltd, the entity having the right to lease this property, will take responsibility for the damage that took place. The people who are (were) doing business here who have correct rental agreements and evidence of (ownership) of property are to let the investigating officers know at the Lumpini Police Station immediately. In this way the The Nickel Co. Ltd.will contact the investigators to claim the lost amount to give to (you) claimants afterward."
Needless to say this has not inspired confidence in the investors; first they must submit the claim to one of the Mafias that was responsible for the destruction, and then Nickel Co,, the company that hired the actual "security thugs" in the first place, will go and pick up the money from the police and return it to the rightful persons. Oh, yeah.....
The owners of the approximately 150 defunct establishments (60 bars and about 90 other leased plots) have not stood idly by. They are pursuing a claim -- class-action-style -- through channels, and the paperwork is in the hands of lawyers. The group have claims to slightly over 50 million baht. Nickel says it is committed to return only 10 million baht. An example obtained by MIDNITE HOUR from a confidential document shows one claimant documenting 2,253,340 baht in damages, and they were offered a settlement of a mere 590,000 baht.
Sukhumvit Square bar owners have also sent representatives to meet Prime Minister Taxin's representative, who told them that Taxin would see that they got all their money. Several of the ex-shop owners are hoping against hope that Taxin will be good at his word.
The kicker; - none of the Sukhumvit Square occupants has received even this "ten-to-twenty-cents-on-the-dollar", nor will they until the legalities are finalized. Those of you who know anything about judicial efficiency here in Thailand will understand that we are talking about years, rather than months, before a settlement is reached.
But MIDNITE HOUR's story for March departs from the above at this point. What about the approximately 60 Night Entertainment Establishments who were, overnight, out of business? Where are they today? Some of us have seen handwritten signs on the crude concrete wall around the Soi 10 demolition; the laundry has moved to another soi, the Internet cafe has also moved to another soi. The beauty shop has moved into a nearby hotel. But what about the lounges and bars ?
As mentioned last month, the Made In Heaven bought themselves a new noodle cart, and opened up a rolling bar beer on the sidewalk in front of the now defunct Sukhumvit Square. Another shop (name not for publication) did the same thing. Lumpini police chased them off the sidewalk, allowing them to do business inside Soi 10. But business was bad inside the soi, so they spoke to the police, and the police settled on a small bribe of 3,000 baht per month to be able to return once again to the front sidewalk. "Downpayment bribes" of 500 baht were made, but the police later reneged, and the down payments went the way of the sabre-toothed tiger. (MIDNITE HOUR was witness to this negotiation, this is not hear-say.) Undaunted, Ms T. of the Made In Heaven took her rolling lock, stock and barrel to the top of Soi 8, where they are doing a hand-to-mouth business with the Farang khee-nok crowd. They have their eye on the leasing of a soon to be available beauty shop just inside Soi 8, which they hope to renovate into the new Made In Heaven. Wish them luck.
Of the few punters who frequented Sukhumvit Square, probably none will remember the Say Hi. For one thing, it was all of 2 meters by 4 meters in size, and it didn't even have a sign -- in Thai or English. It tried a karaoke machine for a while, and later sported the smallest pool table in the world. Except when it was having a birthday party for someone, it never had any customers to speak of, but as a source of 'intel' on what was going on in the compound, it couldn't be beat. This writer found it to be a quiet corner to kick feet up and sip on a soda water. The good news is they have completed their move into bigger and better premises at Cowboy Annex. And they are sporting a slightly larger pool table this time around.
Two other bar beers have recently "risen from the ashes" of Soi 10, both reincarnations are in Tobacco Road (Soi Zero). The first is the Friend's Bar, which now occupies the second slot on the left going in. This concession hasn't been occupied since the Sexy Eyes vacated the premises in November of 2000. The second is the Hello Bar who have moved into the concession just behind Lucky Lukes (the OTHER Lucky Lukes). Some of you may remember this as the location of the old Honey Bar, which closed in January 2002. And lastly, Suzie of Suzie bar beer (Originally Suzie and Crazy in Clinton Plaza) is also talking of opening another place 'somewhere in the neighborhood'.
Its interesting to note that each of these resurrected bars has a copy of the Stickman photo on the wall - the one taken on the morning of 26 January, showing the entire Sukhumvit Square in a state of destruction. MIDNITE HOUR will be keeping our eyes and ears open for any other ex-Soi 10 bars reopening in Bangkok's Night Entertainment Areas.
The SUKHUMVIT SQUARE Story The SUKHUMVIT SQUARE Story
• February's Follies Begin Here... •
MIDNITE HOUR presents the NEWS on the Bangkok Night Scene; - the 'history-in-the-making' for all major Night Entertainment Areas for the month ending February, 2003 :
• PATPONG II •All the news on the soi this last month was up the back stairs on The Ramp. It looks like the Rig-1-Gold is undergoing some renovations and is poised for a name change . Its official (Thai) name is, or was, the Rig One Pub, but that sign has been removed during the renovations, and hasn't been replaced. The English sign reading 'Rig-1-Gold' had been switched off. We will keep you advised.
Also on The Ramp, the Dome Juniority Club, closed last month, has reopened as The Rock - Dome Junior. Some of you may remember that before it became The Dome Juniority Club, it was called The Rock . All the best on your reincarnation(s).
• PATPONG II •
• NANA PLAZA •Opening almost in time to be counted in last month's roll call, the Casablanca has opened in the front 2nd floor corner near the stairwell. A-Go-Go the primary agendum. You have to look for it to see it, but worth a visit.
The bar replacing The Three Roses didn't quite make the cut-off for February, but they assure me they will be opening on the 3rd of March. As we go to press, they still haven't selected a name. An interesting sign (in Thai) appears on the front door. "RECEIVING APPLICATIONS FOR YOUNG (dek) DANCERS. Monthly Salary - 10,000 baht / month. Mandatory 8 "Off"s (buy-outs). "Off"s 500 baht. To wear jeans and a shirt-top selected by management. Contact K. Aen, 01-848 3605." This appears to be an awfully high salary, all things considered. A quick number crunch would indicate the girls could buy themselves out at 500 baht for eight nights in a row, for 4,000 baht, leaving 6,000 baht per month salary, just for showing up every day. Not that MIDNITE HOUR is complaining - this would certainly provide an opportunity for a more 'flexible' form of employment for the young women. (What remains unclear at this writing is the too-commom practice of multiple penalties for each minute late, days off, etc.) It might also be useful to point out to the new manager that the young women would definitely no longer be motivated to be "hostesses" (to go after drink commissions), which hurts the house 'take' and leaves a greater number of unaccompanied, and therefore unsatisfied, customers. Think about it.
• NANA PLAZA •
• SOI COWBOY •The Joy Bar reopened this February; renovations now complete. Brighter and shinier than ever, including a brand-new sign. A-Go-Go is what it's all about.
The Lucky Star continues to play the Name-Game. They are now Lucky Star Cocktail Lounge - Long Gun. (The previously proscribed 'Long Gun' now in full view). Hey, 'shake it, don't break it'. Everyone still calls it the 'Long Gun', however...
The large new double-shophouse-wide bar abuilding at the old Nice Bar (Loretta's) digs is to be called Sheba's. Someone has put some big bucks into this place; the fascia looks like the entrance to an Egyptian pyramid. A-Go-Go the primary agendum. Look for it to open before the end of this month (March).
• SOI COWBOY •
• COWBOY ANNEX •The Bar Bie Bar Beer closed during February for renovations, but completed same before the end of the month, -- only to reopen bigger and better than ever. Keep on truckin'.
Tu's Bar & Massage has dropped the "Massage" from the new sign, but its business as usual.
The Friend Ship bar beer and the C.J. Pub & Restaurant behind it have closed down for massive renovations. The premises will become two larger, separate bar beers. Although work proceeded furiously during February, they were unable to complete construction before month's end. Look for them to open this March. No one seems to be sure what the new name(s) will be.
The Corner bar beer has closed, and in its place is the new Lemon Bar Bear. It should, of course, read '...Beer', and as you might have assumed, the sign painter is to blame. Welcome to the tussle.
Name PA Bar (Pah) has also called it an evening, disappearing without a trace. They have been replaced by the Keng. Bar beer remains the format. Keep on rockin'...
Say Hello, now comfortably relocated from its previous digs at Sukhumvit Square, boasts a bigger pool table. Same friendly staff. No longer a hybrid - open-sided Pool Bar is the format. Welcome back to the Night Scene.
The previously un-signed Sweetheart Bar (next door to the Nok Merry Bar 2) now sports a brand-new sign; the New Lady Bar. It remains a double-wide bar beer. Keep on keeping on...
Fantasy Thailand in the 4-Pak has reopened, also with a brand-new sign; 'Fantacy'. One suspects the sign-painters in these parts are wreaking a revenge of their own... Bar beer the format.
Also in the 4-Pak, the Lady Bar has cashed in her chips, only to be replaced by the Black & White Bar. Any relation to the one on Soi Cowboy? We will let you know. Bar beer the format.
• COWBOY ANNEX •
• TOBACCO ROAD (Soi Zero) •The Wombat Bar has opened up in the concession just behind the Species Bar. This slot has remained empty since the Sexy Night Det 5 vacated it to return to its renovated digs across the soi in September 1999. Bar Beer is the format. The Wombat is a brand-new venture - welcome to the Night Scene melee.
Friend's Bar has successfully transitioned from Sukhumvit Square, business as usual. Open-fronted Pool Bar is the format. Here's hoping your tenure here will far exceed that of Soi 10.
Another ex-Soi 10 bar to open here last month was the Hello Bar. Open-fronted Pool bar is the format. Friendly staff. Better luck this incarnation.
• TOBACCO ROAD •
• SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33) •We here at MIDNITE HOUR hope we are wrong, but it is really difficult to see how the new The Cave is going to make ends meet, come the end of the month. Located next door to the Chelsea, it has no meeters-greeters to welcome custom inside. The customer cannot be sure the blackened entrance door is even open until he decides to try the latch. On trying the latch, he will indeed find it is open, and on entering finds himself in a black-curtained one-meter square jail-cell foyer. Pushing aside the foyer curtain, he finds himself in a dimly lit, well-appointed bar, with half a dozen hostesses in various uniforms (nurse, school girl, etc). The ambiance might best be described as 'soft-kink'. One of the hostesses is in another prison cell midway back, gyrating behind bars to an unfamiliar rhythm. Friendly staff hand the customer a drink menu, and the customer takes a veeeeery deep breath; the first drink is only 900 baht, and successive drinks are 450 baht each. Few customers stay long enough to find out how much the hostess drinks are. We wish them luck -- we suspect they are going to need some.
Anego Club in the back section of 33 Complex appears to have said its final "Sayonara". Battened windows and barred doors tell the tale.
Japanese Club Karaoke has opened at the end of the soi at the old Kosu Mosu location. And just in case the more obtuse among you are unable to derive the implied meaning from its sign, they have put another one up, in English, : "Japanese Only". Another sign in Thai reads, "Members Only". Friendly lot...
• SOI DEAD ARTISTS •
• WASHINGTON SQUARE •A quick note of correction: Last month's newly opened Japanese bar was shown as "Tochu Chakaba". Its correct spelling is : TAICHU SAKABA. Our profound apologies.
• WASHINGTON SQUARE •
• QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA •The Maxx, Queen's Park Plaza's only sports bar, has pulled the plug -- its projection screen TV looming large and black through the shadowed picture window. This, its second closing, is probably its last. ...Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Likewise, the Banana Bar beer bar has switched out the lights, thrown all the stools up on the bar and walked away. Only darkness and spider webs to greet the passers-by.
Monkey Bizness has a brand new sign; Monkey's Bizness. Could the added 'apostrophe s' have actually been worth it?
The Corner beer bar is in fact, in the left rear corner, all the way back, sandwiched in between the Hideaway Pub and the latrines. The first inclination is to assume this is the "Corner" bar that just closed down in Cowboy Annex, but it has in fact just relocated from Soi 8, Sukhumvit. Hope your new digs change your luck.
On the left-most row as you walk in, The Monkey's But ? has opened in the long-defunct Coconat premises. A suggestion to the management: yes, there is such a thing as a too-cute bar beer name. Nevertheless, MIDNITE HOUR wishes you a victorious run.
• QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA •
• The No-News-Is Good-News Dept •
It's status-quo-ante for the following Night Entertainment Areas :
• CLINTON PLAZA •
• SOI KATOEY •
• PATPONG 1 •
© 2003, Bangkok Eyes / bangkokeyes.com