Stickman Readers' Submissions November 16th, 2010

Bar Life

I’d always wanted to open a bar- had loads of great ideas and many friends with similar ambitions. It’s not just the old near retired individuals who have the desire for the dream of living and working your own bar. Myself and my friends all being big into bar life in between our normal working days wanting in on the action. Eventually myself and a mate decided to not just talk the talk- we would go for it and walk the walk. Having found a good opportunity where a bar in the right location being badly managed came available at a good price. I wasn’t in the country at the time- but my friend jumped on it having secured finance from his father. I was to become Manager rather than partner- a seemingly none problematic solution with a generous package to boot.

So now we have a bar to run without a penny to either of our names (for money we have to go for handouts from my friends father) not the ideal way to suddenly get handed a set of keys with a staff already employed and zero experience. Well we both had some prior experience but at serving beer not anything higher. I’m sure many are smiling already at what must be the classic doom and gloom story, but alas we had chosen well. Bars are about location and all you need is a successful attraction near you to make even a crap bar survive. A big new nightclub had opened opposite us. The previous owner who never spent any time in the bar wanted to sell because he didn’t want to be near a big new nightclub= business idiot.

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In the first 2 weeks we sacked all the inept disinterested staff. In fact it ends up being myself the owner and 2 part time weekend staff there. It’s not a massive place, and I can assure you a good bartender can easily do the work of 2-3 bad staff. The classic in Thailand being employing lots of people to do very little. Business boomed first week we took what the previous owner took in a month. We were borrowing beer off another bar as we were selling out of things. It was all down to the energy we gave, the customers loved it. When a customer was ordering a few drinks both of us instantly would be doing half the order each they’d be served charged and given change in 30 seconds, whilst getting good banter and happy service.

We’d be getting 5000 baht in tips each night, come 12 we would shut up and head over to the nightclub opposite where we would get VIP treatment. Walk straight past the queue to be greeted by the owners and ushered into the VIP section where we’d get complimentary drinks. All the girls we’d served in our bar and chatted with before they went to the club would be desperate for us to notice them. Most night we’d let a couple of them tag along- it’s only polite to give a girl what she needs. Normally come 3-4 AM when the club shut we’d head back to our bar crack open a few beers to wait for the inevitable knock on our door. Why were we the super VIPs at a top club? Well where else after work did the staff go for a drink- our bar. I remember the club owner one night asking us how do you not have trouble from the police- answer we just didn’t care.

After about 6 successful weeks we shut for a refurbishment we had planned to do and had raked in enough money to justify. At that stage we had to anyway we were both burnt out. 6 weeks of running a busy bar between the 2 of us was insane we opened it at 11AM drank and worked from 8pm until 5-6 AM fitting in a bit of clubbing after work before entertaining the post club crowd. Then we had women- always women. Young charismatic party going bar owners who walk into a club every night like super stars don’t have to make an effort. I remember waking up next to a stunning 23 year old lawyer- like seriously 10 out of 10. I’d met her before I got involved in the business never even imagined I could have a chance now without trying i’d picked her up.

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Refurbishments started and now our bar/ living accommodation was a building site. Now during the day we grafted on site and clubbed even harder- still doing after hours parties at our building site and bringing home multiple women. The builders we had working for us found it hilarious as to leave our apartments upstairs the girls had to leave via the worksite bar in the morning. It got a bit mad, because now both me and my friend had a few regular girls so were juggling semi permanent girls with one offs.

Something really had to end, working like crazy and partying so hard can’t go on forever. I’d gone from the stage of having a queue of beautiful women to trying to avoid women i’d already been with or struggling to find someone to pick up when not in front of a girl i’d already had. I’m sure many regular mongers get a similar problem after a while. Well my bar party ended when I suffered an injury and the subsequent argument I parted company with the business. After surgery I was given a note for 2 months off work. I went back to work the next day- when I started pointing out I couldn’t do the 90 hour weeks as previously, I was told repeat TOLD I had to do whatever my ‘boss’ told me. I walked out.

Since I left over 2 years ago I know the bar has haemorrhaged money. My once friend has quite a reputation for being an arrogant arsehole and it’s reflected in his business. The staff he employed to replace me was a girl he was shagging and stole off the staff of the nightclub (owners loved that) and a guy who we both knew was sacked for stealing from the till of another bar.

I’m sure a similar story could be told by many getting involved in the bar industry in Thailand as owners or managers. Here comes the punch line- this was all in the UK. Added to the irony, the reason I was only manager not partner was because I was in fact in Thailand when the purchase happened. So being in Thailand actually saved me from a bar ownership disaster. Sometimes the west is just a little bit more subtle than Thailand but in principle still the same.

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Stickman's thoughts:

Wow, I would never have expected to hear about this sort of thing in the UK.

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