Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
Soi 1 Entertainment Plaza
-POISED FOR 5 OCTOBER LAUNCH
The AIDS Conference Disaster
Rumor Of The Month
August's Follies in review
Breakfast at the Oasis
Late last year, MIDNITE HOUR first heard the rumors - the old gas station at the top of Sukhumvit Soi 1 was to be the site of a large building which would be home to the next Nana Plaza-style Night Entertainment Area (see our November 2003 Rumor Of The Month). The rumors quickly subsided, but then again in May of this year, (2004) Khun A. of Bar Chemo 04 at 13 Night Market mentioned that she was one of a hoon that was investing in the building on Soi 1, which by this time had risen well above the foundation levels. At that time, she also mentioned that the 3rd floor was going to be a "Thermae-style coffee shop" that would stay open until the wee-hours of the morning. We remained more than a little skeptical, and once again made the 'Thermae-style coffee shop" story our May Rumor Of The Month .
Nevertheless, the 'rumor' was obviously far from dead, and although it had morphed from a "Nana Plaza" style format to a bar beer format with a coffee shop on top, construction on the Soi 1 building seemed to progress at an ever-accelerating pace. -It looked like MIDNITE HOUR was to have the first of its Rumors Of The Month come true. Original completion estimates last November had a construction completion date of March 2005. By this last May, when the 'Soi 1 rumor' resurfaced, the construction completion date had moved up to November 2004 - but with no solid confirmation that it would be a Night Entertainment Area. However, this July banner signs were stretched across the still-incomplete structure (by then 3 storeys high) advertising bar-beers for lease, along with contact numbers, and even a contact email address and website URL. Obviously these "Soi 1" rumors were, now, more than just rumors.
We went to visit the construction site late last month (July) and by chance met the local owner 'Tome' (rhymes with 'home'). Khun Tome was kind enough to give us the 'Cook's Tour' of the premises.
The front area downstairs will be the main bar beer area (several bar beers already have construction crews making modifications in preparation for the opening - to include tearing down brand-new walls to make double-wide venues). In the rear there will be a coffee shop and a Thai Karaoke. Khun Tome was careful to point out that the kitchen for the coffee shop is actually going to be in a building to the rear, so there will be no cooking odors wafting through the Entertainment Area. Although there will be 36 loc available, some venues will be taking more than one area, and the upstairs allocations have yet to be made - probably based on who comes in the door first with the lease money - remembering that the Thai language sign in front also says the building is for 'commercial' use. Khun Tome did not make any mention of a 3rd floor Thermae-style coffee shop.
This brings up a critical issue - although there will be 36 loc available, it is likely many of these spaces will be combined into single Night Entertainment Venues, and others likely going to other type shops /offices. It is therefore going to be a game of "Wait And See" as to whether the new Sukhumvit Soi 1 Entertainment Plaza building will actually qualify as a stand-alone Night Entertainment Area. Will it attain that magical 'critical mass' - the ability to be self-sustaining in terms of being able to draw -and keep- custom?
We mentioned to Khun Tome that the full name, Sukhumvit Soi 1 Entertainment & Plaza was too long - longer than any other Night Entertainment Area in Bangkok ***, and suggested that it might do well with a shorter nickname. He replied only with a smile. We suspect that unless he has a catchy name up his sleeve, most of the regular denizens of the night will be referring to it as just "Soi 1". When we asked, Khun Tome said that the new construction completion date would be 5 October - one month earlier than originally scheduled. Given that this is so, it probably will be about New Year, 2005 before we see whether Soi 1 will join the ranks as a fully fledged Night Entertainment Area. MIDNITE HOUR will be keeping an eye open, and will keep all informed of developments (or non-developments), and we wish Khun Tome the best of business successes in any case.
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 1 AUGUST, 2004 :
Nevertheless, as this is not the Midnite Bar's first falling from grace - they could have drawn the full 90 day banishment to the tiger cages, where they would have been encouraged to contemplate the severity of their sins. As it was, they drew another 30-day shut-down. Nevertheless, their time has been well spent in making minor renovations - mostly consisting of black paint, by the look of things - and they say all works will be completed several days before the official reopening on 2 August (tomorrow).
But when push comes to shove, to "show", or not to "show" is a purely financial decision, and as with any financial decision, there are always risks. And there are always those who will risk more to make more.
Bangkok's A-Go-Go bar owners are all big boys and girls - each is well aware that "showing" brings the cash monkeys, and getting caught brings consequences. Unfortunately, as long as the current Autocratic Regime remains, the risks and the consequences are higher than they have ever been - as has recently been made abundantly clear by the Authorities' real need to make regular, public examples of Expat Night Entertainment Venues. SOI COWBOY
The second bar to be publicly pilloried by Men-In-Tan from the Thonglor Soh-Noh was Sheba's, which also landed themselves a 30-day sentence. Signs on the doors indicating the staff dancers are now to be found at other venues. SOI COWBOY
Likewise, the Men in Too-Tight Uniforms stung the New Agogo Duck (most of us call it 'Shark') with identical arbitrary justice. And likewise, their dancers are temporarily located at another bar for the remainder of the 30-day wrist-slap. SOI COWBOY
Since their new sign went up, they are now Joy Nguyn Bar, instead of just plain old Joy Bar. The new sign is looking good, and is in keeping with the Soi's current megawattage trend - read, 'super bright'. SOI COWBOY
Gone but not gone is the Richiy Bar, which it seems was just temporarily leasing it's real estate to the now defunct Latifah Bar. Welcome back to the night games. COWBOY ANNEX
Also popping up, most unexpectedly, out of it's coffin is the Oh ! Yes bar, which had apparently thrown in it's hand last month. The beat goes on. . COWBOY ANNEX
As anticipated, Spanky's Bar 1 has called it an evening - with virtually no customers even able to find their way back to that obscure corner, there was no financial reason to stick around. They still have Spanky'Bar 3 and (as mentioned last month) their new venue, Mike's Place on Patpong II to keep them fully occupied. COWBOY ANNEX
The O.S. Salon, which was functionally a bar beer last month, has gone back to being a beauty salon. Their staff have returned to the above mentioned Oh ! Yes bar - so this isn't really 'good-bye' so much as it is some quiet, incomprehensible game of musical chairs... COWBOY ANNEX
Dali Pool, taking over The Upstairs Club's facilities, has a bright, not easily missed sign, beckoning one and all upstairs for pool and beer. 'Pool Bar', of course, being the modus operandi. Welcome to the briar patch. SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
Forget what you heard, the new Jina 33 Club is not a Japanese bar, but rather an 'International Karaoke' - even we Gaijin are welcome. They had their staff orientation night on 29 July, when we walked in thinking they were open. However, they had a proper 'soft opening' the following night. They are located on the Sub-Soi 33/2, next door to Mojo's. We welcome them to these neon sois. SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
Call it . The Casablanca Karaoke has a sign above the door which reads just that. However the newer sign overhanging the sidewalk spells it 'Casablanka' with a 'K'. - Which (?) is the 'legal' name, we wonder, as there are other "Casablanca's" in this City Of Angels... SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
The Mariι Japanese karaoke has bid it's final "sayonara" - even the sign has been torn down and hauled away. (Second floor, Peep Inn Park.) SOI DEAD ARTISTS (Soi 33)
The 4 U Bar has shrunk from it's original five loc to three. It was rumored that the remaining two loc were up for grabs as a sub-lease, but don't hang your hat on that one - seeing is believing. EASY SQUARE
The Easy Square Muay Thai Arena looked like it was hit by a Kansas tornado. As we arrived late, we asked security personnel whether or not we had missed all the action. He advised that there hadn't been any boxing for several days. He explained, "No boxers, no people." It looks as though Easy Square's second muay Thai boxing arena has also bitten the dust. We don't normally say 'we told you so', but, "We told you so." Muay Thai in Expat Night Entertainment Areas has never succeeded - they all fail sooner than later - and sooner is better than later, considering the sleaze that accompanies this activity. (-We're not referring to boxers, of course, but rather the gamblers and the 'would-be' boxers, etc.) EASY SQUARE
The Thai Boxing Bar, which was immediately adjacent to the Easy Square Muay Thai Arena has likewise turned to vapor - gone without a trace. They were - as previously mentioned in these pages - part of the 4 U Bar hoon, which is going through a major contraction at this time. EASY SQUARE
For the record, were it not for four bars currently under construction at Easy Square, we at MIDNITE HOUR would have little choice but to consider this group of Night Venues no longer qualified as a self-sustaining Night Entertainment Area. We will continue to monitor Easy Square, along with the other major areas, and keep you advised. EASY SQUARE
Last month we noted the closing of Sweethearts, and that Paddy's Irish Bar had taken over the reins. Well, what goes around, comes around - this month, Paddy's is nowhere to be found, and Sweethearts has reappeared - rocking and rolling full-tilt like they had never left. The only change we noted were a couple of brand-new red, white and blue signs. Welcome back to the sharkpool. QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
The Sugar Shak - the large Pool Bar in the back of the compound - is getting ready to pull up stakes and move to Phu Khet. A handwritten sign out front advertises 'For Sale'. Any one interested should inquire within - as they remain open for the present. QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
The Banana Bar, closed last December for a month, is closed again. We will be keeping an eye open - who knows, they may pop back up out of their coffin again. We will advise next month - either they resurrect, or they are history. QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
Apropos temporary closures, our fears were unfounded last month when we passed by the Happiness and saw only dark shadows through the tinted windows. Things are once again back full-throttle. QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
It looks like the Noi Pool Bar has put it's last chit in the cup. Only darkness shines out from within. They opened only last April - with the highest of expectations. Too bad - reality always seems to hold higher cards than expectations. TOBACCO ROAD
A new bar beer, the You & I, has opened in the Night Market side. If they ever make any money they are going to buy a sign... We wish them luck as they cast their dice against the pitted wall of chance. THERMAE & 13 NIGHT MARKET
--- Datzit Fernow
William R. Morledge
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