Clinton Entertainment Plaza
November 1998 - 7 June 2003
Final Update - July 2003
- Richard D. Hartman
Up until mid-1998, the area between the legendary and now-extinct Thermae massage parlor/coffee shop and the new Thermae coffee shop was a long-dormant bank building with a large (also unused) warehouse at the rear.  Around November of that year, a few outdoor ‘bar beers’ appeared at the rear, between the main building and the warehouse.  The area was poorly lit, and the ‘bar beers’ were only occasionally visited by small groups of Thai customers.
These bar beers were unnoticeable to all except those using the abandoned warehouse in the rear as an expedient parking lot.  Because of it's location, between old and new Thermae , this area was originally referred to as "Thermae Annex" .
From those inauspicious beginnings in 1998, there had been considerable growth during the first two months.  The area's potential was first recognized by two entrepeneurial Expats, Kees "Case" Weening and "Charlie" Hughes.  In January of 1999, under the Lee Singh Co. Ltd. banner, they converted one of the back bar areas into their first 'sales office', and set themselves the arduous goal of developing the area into a major Night Entertainment Area.  Originally, Case and Charlie decided to call the compound 'Entertainment Plaza' , and in February of that year, their first sign was put up at the side of the main building above the footpath on Sukhumvit Road.  By then, the area already sported 10 ‘bar beers’ with two more under construction.  Some of the new bars were being built beside the main bank building, closer to Sukhumvit Road, no longer just in the aforementioned back area.
In June of 1999, another new sign went up, replacing the old ‘Entertainment Plaza’ sign.  From that time forward, it officially became "Clinton Entertainment Plaza".  -As in, William 'Bill' Jefferson (Blythe IV) Clinton', the 42nd President of the USA, and as you may have assumed, the ex-president was to be the official theme.   Several of the bars were named after either Clinton himself (Bill’s Coffee Shop) or people or places relating to his administration (Monica’s,  The White House...)
The bar beers at the newly renamed ‘Clinton Plaza’ slowly gained in popularity among expat imbibers, so at the beginning of the new millennium, Case decided the time was right to try an A-Go-Go bar.  He began renovations on his indoor/outdoor Nuch Snack Bar in February 2000.  By the end of March, Flowers A-Go-Go opened its doors to the public.  It was an immediate, if modest, success.  And although it later changed its name to The Candy Store (and changed owners), it proved to be the seminal bar for Clinton Plaza, as several other a-go-go bars opened over the following two years.  If a date were to be cited for Clinton Plaza's coming of age and entering the mainstream of Bangkok’s Night Entertainment scene, it would have to be March 2000.
In the year 2000, Clinton Plaza experienced unprecedented growth.  As it grew, so did the belief that it would actually become a major Night Entertainment Area; its success feeding on itself.  By the time Flowers A-Go-Go opened in March, 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 a total of six A-Go-Go bars had already opened in the compound.   It looked like Clinton Plaza was on its way.   The developers, having found new deep-pocketed investors from the Middle East, had detailed plans drawn up which showed five floors of lounges and A-Go-Go bars in the main building.  Also, the large warehouse in the rear was to be ringed with one and two storey A-Go-Go bars and lounges.   Once completed, it would be one of the largest Night Entertainment Areas in Bangkok.  But all would not go according to plan...
In August of 2001, there were six nearly simultaneous bar closures in Clinton Plaza; five of those were A-Go-Go bars, leaving only one A-Go-Go bar, the Doll House, up and running.   The outside world originally thought it was part of an ongoing city-wide police crack-down on Night Entertainment Areas, however word leaked out later that there was a dispute over ownership of the land and the legality of the existing bar leases.  It looked like Clinton Plaza was to be relegated back to the minor leagues of beer bars and noodle stands, however, 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 a rumored additional new investor from 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, anticipating the worst, began renovations on the old Hare & Hound in preparation for its eventual move to Soi Cowboy.    Although the White House A-Go-Go finally reopened in December, it closed once and for all, four months later.
A month 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 'no trespassing' signs and continued to open for business, as usual.  But business was not 'as usual'; the remaining 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, and found to be valid.  In the final reckoning, it would be a matter of attrition, and/or the 'new' land owners having to buy up the bar leases.
Construction crews began taking core samples throughout the compound for what was then reported to be 'a large five-star hotel'.   Bars that were already closed were barricaded off and included in the construction area.  As additional bars closed within the Clinton Plaza compound, they were 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 it's 2003 closing.
Early in March 2003, when only the Living Room and Monica's remained, the word came down that Clinton Plaza's last day would be 31 March.  Days in advance, Monica's put up large signs advertising its "farewell bash" on that final day.  Thousands of balloons, and a live rock-and-roll band to boot, and an overflow of customers to see it off.  (They were only moving next door into "13 Night Market", so there weren't too many parting tears shed.)  A good time was had by all, a wild time was had by some.  The Living Room next door saw how much fun (and money) everyone had, so they also put up a lot of balloons and were telling everyone it was their last night; 'so while you're at it, come in and say good-by to us, too '.  There was only one niggly little detail -- and that was they didn't close.  -And had no intention of closing - business as usual on 01 June.  One would stop short of calling that 'dishonest', or would one?
Thus, the Living Room 'pub' 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.
The second of two 'opportunistic' Night Entertainment Areas to close in 2003, 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 subsequently 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.
Copyright © 2001 - 2003, BANGKOK EYES / bangkokeyes.com
* Acknowledgements to Zootramp Publications for exclusive use of their historical database.