Thumbnail History - Washington Square
Updated May 2002
- Richard D. Hartman
The story of Washington Square is a story of many bars at a few locations.    With the exception of the Silver Dollar Bar which was an original Night Entertainment pioneer in Washington Square , all the bars that opened in the initial buildup years in Washington Square have changed names at least once.    The story, or stories behind these several name changes reads like a Soap Opera of the bar world, with partnerships forming and acrimoniously breaking up, then the individual partners starting up on their own, and other partnerships forming once again.    A detailed history would also go into the convoluted combinations and permutations regarding other bars in, and outside of Washington Square that the expats' Thai wives owned, and who 'stiffed' whom in which deal, and on, and on.    Washington Square , with its nominally 'Western Bar' motif could have, and perhaps should have been called the O.K. Corral .    It is however, not the intent of Bangkok Eyes to summarize what might be someone’s long, intricate and perhaps fascinating future novel.
Prior to the opening of the seminal Silver Dollar Bar in 1985, virtually the only ongoing attraction for expatriate residents and visitors was the Washington Theater , which had been showing Western films there since the US military R&R years.    Even the theater has undergone name changes: in the late 1990’s it became the present day Studio 22 (downstairs) and the Mambo Cabaret Show (upstairs), which is a transvestite revue catering mostly to Taiwanese and Japanese tour groups.
Cowboy (the man) of Soi Cowboy origins had, at that time, lost his holdings in his original Cowboy Bar due to bad debts, and was determined to try his hand again, this time in Washington Square .    This new Cowboy Bar started up about a year after the Silver Dollar Bar but at the far opposite side.    But once again, the Cowboy Bar would go out of business due to money management problems; selling out not long after that to the Square One Pub , which, after another change in ownership eventually became the New Square One Pub .
By 1987 Washington Square had nominally enough Night Entertainment Venues to generate its own trade, just enough ‘draw-cards’ to bring in and hold customers, just enough custom to attain critical mass.    The overall size of Washington Square hasn’t grown much since that time, leaving it in a state of equilibrium, - just barely big enough to keep on keeping on as a Night Entertainment Area.
In the early 1980’s other bars followed these two:    The Blue Bayou , which later became the present day Wild Country .    The Saddle Rack , which later became the Texas Lone Star .    The No Problem stayed in business under that name for several years before becoming the Cat’s Meow in late 1999.
The Bourbon St Restaurant deserves special mention here, as it is the only Night Entertainment Venue in Washington Square that has lifted itself up by its bootstraps to become a first-class family and business restaurant-bar.    It opened in 1986, but even the Bourbon St was not immune to the name-change game.    Originally, what is now the main dining room & bar area opened as the Expat’s Retreat .    Not long after that it was reborn as the Texxan , before finally becoming Bourbon St .    At that time, there were two bars next door to it: the Hole-In-One and the Alaskan -which later changed to the Outlaws Bar .    But even this was not to be for very long; both bars were absorbed by Bourbon St , bringing it to its present configuration.    Bourbon St has become its own ‘draw-card’, and would surely survive independently of the other venues in the compound.
Since 1997 Washington Square has experienced a small amount of additional growth , but none of it has been in keeping with its original 'Western Bar' motif.    Two of these more recent additions, the Happy Pub and Crystal Bar have opened as single shophouse lounges in the central building complex, beside the Mambo Cabaret .    Bangkok's 'explosion' of new foot massage and traditional massage venues has also had an impact on Washington Square : following the lead of Huttasat 2 were the Garden Spa and the two most recent additions, the Sunflower Traditional and the Akasuri Korea Style .    A few Japanese bars have also opened their doors in Washington Square ; the Kamome , the Oak Club and the Sumire (although the Sumire closed in early 2002, becoming the Huttasat 22 Foot Massage ).
Although the long-term prospects for Washington Square look good, it isn't likely there will be any substantial growth or change in this Night Entertainment Area in the forseeable future.
© 2001, Bangkok Eyes / bangkokeyes.com
* With grateful acknowledgement to N. and N.F. and D. ( -you know who you are- ) for your corroborative input, and to Zootramp Publications for exclusive use of their historical database.