Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
Asoke Plaza Smashed Again
- LAW-AND-ORDER FAILS
13 Night Market Closes
"Nouveau" Door Art
"Poster-Signs" take off
Rumor Of The Month
March's Follies in review
On 04 February 2005, twenty-five bar beers (new and under construction) at the newly relocated Asoke Plaza were destroyed by demolition teams in apparent defiance of Court findings which were reported to have said the current Land Lessee could remain until such time as they could have their "Day In Court". This 'day in court' was deemed to be this coming March, or at the latest, April (2005). This is the second time in less than two months that wrongful and apparent extra-judicial action by the landowner has crushed this Night Entertainment Area.
The first raid on Asoke Plaza by the owner and his minions was on 14 December 2004. The owner's operating company using a Court order (for the adjacent piece of land !), and backed up by Thonglor's Finest and an officer from the Legal Enforcement Office entered the front section of property (at Asoke & Sukhumvit Roads) and ordered the occupants to evacuate the premises immediately and to take all their personal property with them.
The occupants (bar owners) that were there, or that could be rounded up quickly were busily attempting to remove their personal belongings and bar fixtures when the wrecking crews went to work. Quite a lot, but far from all of the personal property was able to be relocated to the rear (then called Asoke Corner) area, thereby avoiding destruction. All of the bar buildings (structures) -owned by the bar owners- went under the hammer. (See our lead story in the 01 January 2005 issue of MIDNITE HOUR in our Archives page.)
The first Dec 14 raid took place in spite of the fact that the Land Lessee had obtained a legal ruling that Court-appointed officials would come down to evaluate the situation and make final judgment within a week's time. The raid which destroyed Asoke Plaza, incredibly, took place before the scheduled evaluation (less than 48 hours after the Court made this ruling).
The Land Lessee immediately appealed, saying that the rear area should be opened up to allow items that were evacuated from the front section to be removed by their rightful owners. She was also buying time, as the court was still intending to make their evaluation visit on the 18th of December.
The Court in fact did make that inspection visit, along with a fleet of squad cars from the Municipal Police. The result being that, not only would the land be made available to the Land Lessee and bar owners for access to their personal property, the Land Lessee was also advised she had a free hand to utilize the rear section (then called Asoke Corner, but now renamed Asoke Plaza) for anything she wanted (her interpretation). This 'window' of temporary use was to extend to late March or April of this year, at which time a 'final' Court date would be set - and the lessee's status would be finally decided.
The Land Lessee wasted no time in encouraging the owners of the destroyed bars to set up their bars again in this back section (to honor her 'contracts' to these original bar owners, and, of course, to get the rent money flowing in once again). By New Year's Day, there were more than a dozen bars in operation again, many of them operating under the open skies, with nothing but a refrigerator, a bar, barstools and a string of Christmas lights.
A month later, tents were erected over the exposed bars, and several bars were moving into as-yet un-demolished semi-permanent structures (and in some cases, moving into partially demolished structures). In addition, there were brand-new bars (not relocated bars) sprouting up all through the compound. The word that land was available for bar beers spread quickly, and at least four bar owners from the soon-to-close 13 Night Market were making deals with the Land Lessee to move in by the first of March (today).
However, that is as far as it went. Four days later, 04 February, the owner, this time under a different operating company, sent in heavy equipment and welders, much as Chuwit's Marauders did at Sukhumvit Square two years ago. As with the first plundering in December, wrecking crews again ignored a Court-ordered moratorium and entered the premises, destroying a vast amount of personal property. They literally plowed up the foundations, crushed the plywood beer bars, and stacked barstools in heaps around the compound. None of the bar owners was allowed inside the premises to retrieve his/ her property - having been physically restrained by both a private uniformed security force and Bangkok's Finest on a 24-hour shift.
And the great curiosity here is that the Press didn't have a single word between them to say about this second, more brutal plundering. In that the loss of personal property was greater this time around, we find this absolutely staggering. MIDNITE HOUR has made a complete photographic record of this second decimation (as we did with the first) - several of these photographs appear together with this article. Other photographs will -at a later time- appear in the final history of this Night Entertainment Area, and will appear in our Maps & History page.
MIDNITE HOUR has been interviewing several people on "both sides of the fence" during the month of February, and we heard much discussion as to who violated which Court Order, which of Bangkok's Finest were rightly or wrongly involved, who had the necessary itthipon ("influence") --and who didn't, who made all their Court appearances (thereby retaining 'right'), and who owed back rent to whom. The veracity of even a small part of all this (from either side) will probably never be ascertained. As is quite often the case locally, two precepts will, or have already been applied :
1. "What's done is done" (a corollary of Mai Pen Rai)Add to that the almost universal local trait of extremely short attention-span, and a year from now, no one will know what you are talking about - although they will remember that there used to be some bar beers here once upon a time...
That which remains undeniable fact, however, is that both times wrecking crews came to demolish bar beers at Asoke Plaza, it was the private bar beer owner who paid the price, who suffered the loss of property, and whose rice bowl was broken - while the land owner and the Land Lessor stood off at a distance and danced the dance of money and influence. But we are not surprised are we, dear reader, after all we know where we woke up this morning, right?
See a complete listing of the 25 Night Entertainment Venues that were closed down and destroyed on 04 Feb below in March's Follies, and watch for our new maps, to come out sometime this month showing the devastation of the two attacks.
Baseless rumors aside, this Night Entertainment Area has met it's 'final solution', and is the fourth such "Opportunistic" bar area to disappear in the last two years. The term "Opportunistic" is used in this instance by MIDNITE HOUR to mean those Nightspot Areas which took advantage of the lull in building construction following the Economic Collapse of 1997. Entrepeneurial businessmen leased these properties destined for large construction projects on short-term renewable leases, knowing that eventually -sooner rather than later- they would have to give up their leased land, returning it to the prime constructors. The other Night Entertainment Areas to disappear these last two years were Sukhumvit Square, and Clinton Plaza and Easy Square. We note with interest that each of these areas was closed down in an atmosphere of legal haggling, threats and acrimony. It looks as though 13 Night Market, due to close momentarily, will be the fifth Opportunistic Night Entertainment Areas to close, and the first of these to close out in an orderly, business-like manner.
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 MARCH, 2005 :
The Pent House at the Silom end no longer has door touts holding up signs reading, "No Cover Charge". Not coincidentally, their sign now reads, "Member Pent House". For the uninitiated, this translates as "unspecified cover charge" or "show charge" or "first two drinks charge" or more than one of the above. Those who feel they have to go up to see what's going on would be well advised to check on how much it will cost before sitting down. As a precaution, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the procedure for reporting incidents to the Tourist Police... PATPONG I
Bobby is renovating his Marco Polo restaurant lounge yet again. The rear portion is shaping up to be a continuation of that well-appointed eatery (replacing his earlier Pool Bar). It looks like they will be serving before the end of the month (note: he hasn't closed the front counter, which seems to continue to do a healthy trade despite the rear of the premises being torn up). For you history buffs, yes, this is Bobby's original Aroy Dee location. PATPONG II
ASOKE PLAZA + ASOKE CORNER .
Map A - Asoke Plaza at the time of the first demolition - 14 December 2004.For the full story of the most recent demolition, and a brief history of this Night Entertainment Area, please see our story above. COWBOY ANNEX
As can be seen from the table above, there was a sole survivor. The Fantacy Bar, having become a Street Bar by virtue of being drug out onto the sidewalk in front of Asoke Plaza during the first demolition on 14 December, has quietly stayed put. The Fantacy owner allows as how he has a good working relationship with the local Men In Tan who have told him to downplay his visibility as much as possible. -And as long as he doesn't become anyone's eyesore, he can stay.
His nightly "operating procedure" is to wait until the giant billboard lights above him are doused (around 9:00 p.m.). He then un-padlocks the bar and stools and sets up. He has two ice chests, a battery operated bar light, and for the stereo he has a battery operated radio-cassette player. He employs (again, low key) four hostesses/bartendees who will sit in the shadows and talk to customers.
He enjoys the same privileges as the other "Moonlight Mile" pushcarts and Sidewalk Bars that open up after hours between Soi 5 and Soi 15 (See our story, THE LONG THIN LINE in the September 2004 issue.) The most significant of these privileges is he can stay open for as long as there are customers - his normal closing time is 4:00 a.m.
And get this: he says he has an "in" with the land owner of the now defunct Asoke Plaza, and that he will open his bar back inside (off the sidewalk) in a matter of a few months. On the Pollyannaish side, but we can't help but wish him luck. COWBOY ANNEX
The owner of Chemo 04 is best described as a survivor. Chemo Bar and Chemo 02 perished under Sia Ang (Godfather Hot-Tub) Chuwit's iron boot in Sukhumvit Square two years ago. Receiving no reimbursement for damages, she tried to make a go of it with Chemo 03 on Soi 10 adjacent to Sukhumvit Square, but without the crowds that Sukhumvit Square drew, it soon went out of business. The owner then opened this Chemo 04 on May 2003. Realizing early on that this area was destined for redevelopment, the owner then opened Chemo 01 in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza on Oct 2004. where she will be moving full-time starting tonight. Whew! -we wonder if the United States of Amatrixa has anyone left with the equivalent entrepreneurial zeal....
13 NIGHT MARKET
B.B. Bar Beer also came aboard in May 2003. Nevertheless, they were the "last man standing", having kept their bar open on 1 March - free drinks for all those visiting them - all the while, neighbors tearing down just about everything in sight. The big-hearted owner, Ms P says she will be working in an office - no more bar beers for her. We wish her luck, but we can't help thinking that, just like Arnold, 'she'll be back'.
Monica's Bar & Pool is a survivor of the now defunct Clinton Plaza. It is interesting to note that they had a grand going-away party when they shut down operations there and moved over here to the 13 Night Market - just as they partied late into the night a couple of nights ago, in yet another grand send-off for staff and customers alike. Good on yer, mates - may the night-gods smile on you and your next venture, wherever that may be. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Sexy Bar, the Night Entertainment Area's only air conditioned bar, also opened in May of 2003. While not technically a 'relocated' bar from the then recently destroyed Sukhumvit Square, it had it's origins in the Colorando Bar (which later reopened in the Rajah Hotel grounds on Soi 4). Future plans unknown. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Tequila Bar, also opening in May of 2003, never had a sign, but apparently didn't need one. It was one of the smallest bars ever to have turned a profit. We honestly don't know how they did it. We don't know their future plans. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Barber and Beauty Massage is the mollusk - it predates the "coming of age" of the 13 Night Market - before the time it hit "critical mass" in May of 2003 and after the Night Entertainment Area fizzled out the first time in February of 2000. Going under several names while it was open, it had the reputation of being less than ambiguous, and quietly staying open 24 / 7 - somehow without detection by Bangkok's Finest. Future plans not known. 13 NIGHT MARKET
The Today Airport Bar 2 opened in June of 2003, and was an offshoot of Asoke Corner's Today Airport Bar. They, along with the many, had heard the sound of distant thunder on Asoke Corner/Asoke Plaza, and were looking for a fallback position. This suited their needs nicely, although a little smaller than they had hoped for. They also never put up a sign - seeing that business was good as it was. Future unknown. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Sweet Home Bar, another survivor, was, originally, the seminal bar of Sukhumvit Square, having opened there a full year before it was even popular to do so. Soon after the Mafia crushed their bar, along with over a hundred other shops and bars in Sukhumvit Square, they reopened here (just across the street) from their original bar in June 2003. In anticipation of this closing, they have recently opened yet another venue - the Sweet Home Club on Soi 22, which seems to be doing well, after a somewhat slow start. 13 NIGHT MARKET
The Catch Up bar beer opened curbside in June 2003 with a total of 6 barstools hanging out into the sidewalk. No one thought it would fly - it did a healthy business right up to the end. No future plans. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Beautiful Bar was another of the "first of the second wave" - also opening in May of 2003. We don't know where they came from, or where they are going. 13 NIGHT MARKET
The Sport Bar opened in July of 2003, taking over from the unsuccessful New Bar. Having also seen the handwriting on the wall early on, they opened the successor The Sports Bar 2 in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza in October 2004. Being the first to roll out the red carpet at Soi 1, should Sukhumvit 1 Plaza ever attain critical mass, the mantle of "seminal bar" will be passed to them. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Golden Eyes opened in August 2003, long running with neon reading "Golden EEys", finally got their neon straightened out and made it to the finish line. They are talking of moving over to Soi 11, but nothing settled yet. 13 NIGHT MARKET
Red Dragon opened up in September 2003 next door to the Walker's Bar Pub & Pool. (Walker's was another survivor from Sukhumvit Square, migrating to Asoke Corner, only to hear the tom-toms of eminent demise, and then moving on to this location.) However Walker's never really got it going here, and was finally absorbed by the Red Dragon. We don't know where the Red Dragon is heading, but we suspect it has something in mind - it took its rather spectacular neon down a couple of months ago to use - somewhere. 13 NIGHT MARKET
The Mic Chokdee Bar bought out the Thai Tattoo in March 2004, and finally got around to putting up it's sign. Future plans -- they might end up (with a partner) in Sukhumvit 1 Plaza. Wishing them prosperity. 13 NIGHT MARKET
The You & I bar opened up in the small corner location at the back, near the massage parlor in July 2004. They made it to the finish line by providing lots of friendly service. They never got ahead enough to buy some decent neon - their prospects are limited after leaving here. 13 NIGHT MARKET
You & Me Club appears, for all the world, to be wrapped in it's parting shroud - however it also sports a new, hurriedly prepared rap samak sign advertising high paying positions available for pretty hostesses. One of the advantages of paying attention to the Thai language signs - we can be pretty sure that when bars do this, they are only closed for the short term. No indication, however, when they plan to reopen. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
The 33 Barber / Oil Massage / Drink is closing its doors at 10:30 p.m. - for no apparent reason. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
Club Ayano (Japanese) has added some new neon, and apparently two new floors of additional, inscrutable entertainment - 2nd, and now 3rd & 4th floors, Peep Inn Park. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
Last month, back in the far corner there were two The Corner lounges - the original, and the second newer one behind it that they built on spec, hoping to sell soonest (see our last month's MIDNITE HOUR). This month, the new addition has assumed the name The Corner, while the original has changed their name to just Corner Bar. We don't know if we see the logic in that, but it seems to work for them - both looked reasonably busy last Saturday night. Let the good times roll. QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
Originally opening as Lucky Lukes (Aug 2000),, they quickly changed to Nui Lucky Bar, then back to Lucky Lukes again (Nov 2001), opening and closing as necessary to effect changes. Last November, they closed yet again, seemingly for the last time. Like a cat with nine lives, however, they have popped back up out of their crypt, this time as New Lucky Lukes. We have, again, been assured that this New Lucky Lukes is no relation to it's namesake in Nana Plaza. Welcome back to the catfight, and may you conquer all your personal demons this time around. TOBACCO ROAD (SOI ZERO)
The Sidetrack Beer Bar, one of the Soi's few air conditioned bars, has rung up it's last check-bin. It's roller-shutters pulled down and padlocked, it sits camouflaged by the surrounding detritus and darkness. It's as though it has been absorbed by the shadows around it; as though it never existed at all. Greener pastures... TOBACCO ROAD (SOI ZERO)
Up one flight of stairs, the first bar to open it's doors on the 2nd floor is the Mini Bar. As it's name suggests, it is tiny - and as it is open-fronted, surprisingly, air conditioned. They are not very busy - no one knows they are up there. --Which is something they need to work out with building management re: signs and advertising. We welcome them as they cast their fate with the rest. It is interesting to speculate -- a couple of successful bars in the upstairs floors could push Sukhumvit 1 Plaza over the critical mass threshhold....let's wait and see how this develops as they are anticipating an increase in walk-in trade from passing foot traffic next month when Nana Square commercial building opens (corner Soi 3 & Sukhumvit). SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
The new rooftop seafood restaurant / lounge could open as early as tonight. At any rate, we will give the full report next month. We still don't have a name......? SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
Last month we mentioned that the Mae Mai Kitchen & Karaoke barbecue pit facing onto the front sidewalk seemed never to be open. Well, it is open, but only for the local lunch crowds that frequent that area each workday to eat and shop at the talat nat that blossoms with wairoon fashion items each morning. We knew there had to be an explanation....by the way they do a respectable amount of business each lunchtime- had it not been so busy, would have tried it myself. The back Karaoke-Restaurant is still open every night. SUKHUMVIT 1 PLAZA
--- Datzit Fernow
William R. Morledge
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