So You Want To Be A Bar Owner?
It all started in October 2009. Of course I had a Thai partner, a lovely little thing from Udon Thani. No, it wasn't that way. Well not now. We have known each other for 7 years and I had grown not only fond of, but trusting towards her. She was 39 years old and smart. I've always had a liking for clever women.
She was the hardest working person I've ever met, in the East or the West. She got up early, tending to her ever-growing band of farangs on the Internet. She sold insurance and helped Thai women with their visa applications during the day. Around 8 pm she made the rounds of the bars, selling watches to the girls. She even imported a collapsible toothbrush from China. All the little darlings loved them. Later in the evening she would hit the beach.
So early one Fall day in October 2009, we went looking for a bar for lease in Pattaya. We must have looked at 10 or 12 before we found one at a fair price. As it turned out it really was a fair price. The owner was a farang, married to a Thai, spoke good Thai and was a long time resident of Pattaya. The problem was not him as it will later be established. The problem was not as you would expect as you will see later. In fact the problem was most definitely one the reader would never imagine happening in Thailand or anywhere else for that matter.
As I said it was a good deal the bar was on Soi Chaiyapoon, not far from Soi LK Metro. Not a booming soi compared to other parts of Pattaya, it houses a lot of English blokes. hence its name the English ghetto came. The landlord supplied us with a turnkey operation. Everything there – a complete bar, many tables and a large fridge. It also came with finest short time room I've ever seen, one that would have made Hugh Hefner jealous. All we had to supply was the booze. Wait, wait, there's more. Also in the package was the use of 3 rooms upstairs. We could rent them out monthly or use them for the help. What did we have to pay for all this? 10,000 baht a month! I told you it was a deal! The owners had several bars in the area and they must have been in a down cycle because during our talks they gave us practically everything we asked for. So we got a Thai lawyer with an English lawyer looking over his shoulder and I signed the one-year lease before I had to go back to California for 3 months.
When I got home I sent her some money to buy the booze and napkins etc. before the bank Washington Mutual went belly up. They used to transfer money throughout the world for free. I was born in the depression so I like to save money. Yes, I really am that old!
Well, she said she wouldn't have any trouble running the bar and she didn't, with phone calls twice a week it turned out she was averaging 74,000 baht a month, plus she rented out 2 of the rooms to 2 geezers for 5,000 baht a month. They hung around most days drinking and sampling the wares. That may not sound like a lot of money but we were just getting started and this was not Walking Street but Soi Chaiyapoon where every skin flint and hard rock in Pattaya ends up.
When I returned I was shocked. She had placed daily all the money except expenses in a sealed envelope in the safe. My old Italian CPA couldn't have done better and he worked for the mob in San Jose! Remember the woman had only a 6th grade education. Oh, I almost forgot, during that time she only took out 3,000 baht a month. It was only enough to pay her rent. I was both proud and delighted with her because the plan was for her to pay me back my investment and then the bar would be hers.
Another good month went by and she informed me that one of her favourite Germans was arriving and he couldn't know anything about the bar. She would have to take 2 weeks off. She seemed to have a lot of favorite Germans. I agreed and off she went.
Things went smoothly until 3 days before she returned when disaster struck. One of the bar girls had stolen $2,000 off a drunken Canadian. If anyone deserved it, he did. He was sending her up the soi with his credit card and his PIN number! I immediately fired her and had a meeting the next day to try to explain to the help that that was not done at this bar. They all looked at me like I had raped their mother.
The next day they were all gone, absolutely no one showed up for work! I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. I thought we had a tight group. One of the little darlings was barfined a minimum of 3 times a day. She would walk back to the bar with a farang in tow, get him smashed and leave with him. It was time for me to get out of the bar business. Without a work permit I couldn't even open the door.
When she got back we went over the finance, figured out how much she owed and how much her monthly payments would be. Then I made a frightful mistake. I said 2 sentences and all hell broke loose. They were "Can we have the agreement written up in English and Thai and can we get a lawyer." They seem to me to be harmless requests. To say that she became incensed is not the correct word maniacal is more on the mark. Her eyes hardened, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
Her reply spewed out "Would you ask your sister to put it in writing and see a lawyer?"
Before I could say "Of course I would" she was out the door. Those were the last words she ever spoke to me.
I followed her downstairs trying to calm her down but to no avail. She packed up and left I never saw her again.
Through the days, weeks and months ahead, I tried everything. I called her. I had farang friends talk to her. I had Thai friend talk to her. She would not talk about it!
I was devastated. The only thing of consequence I had done for her was that I had been paying for her daughter's education. I couldn't even continue paying for that. Even her parents refused to take any money. Paying for education for children in the 3rd world is not a big deal to me. I do it frequently. It makes me feel good. It’s a cause I believe in and I think it's one of the best ways to help. Bill Gates has put up 60 billion for 3rd world education, warren buffet 30 billion. I'm certainly not in their league but I do contribute to a few.
I have been extremely lucky in my life and anyone who was lucky enough to win the "sperm lotto" and be born in a 1st rate country and to have a vocation that I would work at without pay has got to be grateful. How can we not be moved by their plight?
Well I’ll get off my soap box and get back to the story. What the hell was I to do now? I couldn't do a runner. It’s not my style. The next door neighbor was kind enough to open the door. Remember, no work permit!
I sat down to think. Didn't almost everyone want to own a bar? Didn't everyone just know they could run in better than you? BINGO! I would find someone to sublease it. Within 2 days a Thai woman who had a nice open air restaurant on the corner of Soi Chaiyapoon and Excite wanted to be a bar owner. I subsequently increased the rent, added a clause that in the case they couldn't sustain the lease, they would have to forfeit a large penalty, plus I would live in one of the upstairs rooms rent free for the remainder of the lease. I told you I was born in the depression! The poor thing only lasted a month and a half. I quickly found a jolly old Irishman and he had a swell time to the end.
I am now living in a 3rd world country in a different hemisphere and quite frequently my mind drifts back to my days in Pattaya where I owned a bar and lost a dear friend.
It probably was not a bad thing to get out of the bar industry. It seems to me that it is a highly stressful lifestlye that few are realu suited to.