The Future of Bangkok Gogo Bars
I enjoy your Bangkok columns, in particular about the status of bars and nightlife in Bangkok and Pattaya. Your recent columns have me thinking. I have lived and worked in Bangkok on and off since I was a boy and have seen the transformation of nightlife in Bangkok, albeit from an outsider's perspective.
Regarding the gogo bars in Bangkok, I tend to agree with you and Big Andy on some things, but may I offer another point of view about other things. I completely agree that Patpong is in decline, and has been for years.
Where the nightlife used to be the BIG attraction in Patpong, now it is the night market. It is really the ONLY tourist attraction in this area and some will venture in and out of the bars just for a look-see. But even the night market is a joke. I cannot believe that for more than 15 years or so they have continued to set-up and tear-down those make-shift stalls everyday of the year. It does not take a genius to behold the lunacy of this ritual, and that no one has come up with a better method. Even portable storage containers, similar to do-it-yourself moves, or trailors that can be wheeled in and out each night would be much more sufficient. Will it ever go away?…who knows?
The go-go bars are the same as they were in the '80 and '90s with no improvements or upgrades, especially on Patpong soi 1. Every go-go bar follows the same concept ….up-raised stage in the middle of the bar, bleacher-like seating around the sides, and the bar usually around the outside of the stage as a buffer between the girls and the customers. It is as old as the Bridge over the River Kwai …and quite boring to see the same motif, maybe with different lighting or coloring. So Club Electric Blue, The Strip, Bada Bing and a few others have broken the mold and have moved the bar away from the stage, and brought the customer closer to the action…but it is still the same routine. Soi Cowboy had this motif long ago…up close and personal. I think Bada Bing has a better layout with more of a lounge style setting. But it is the same ole adage…"if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality that keeps these bars all looking the same from door to door.
You suggest that coyote dancers may be the "savior" to Bangkok's go-go bars. I tend to disagree with this point of view, or with the fact that Big Andy says that cell phones are a way of life in go-go bars now. Personally, I think the coyote dancer concept will "kill" the go-go bars in Bangkok, along with allowing the girls to use their cell phones while in the club. You already see the effect at many places.
The use of cell phones by dancers in western strip clubs is banned at most places. The girls cannot bring them on to the "floor" when working. They must be kept in their lockers. This can easily be enforced here in the go-go bars as well. Girls can be permitted to use their phones while on break in the back room or outside the club. Why have ANY girl come into your club to dance, when she will preoccupy and immerse herself on her cell phone with games or online chats, whilst the customers sit alone or walk in and out the door unnoticed? She might as well have her Thai boyfriend come in and sit with her each night.
The use of coyote dancers is actually the transformation from "bar-fine girls" to western-style strippers, and this is NOT why western men come to Bangkok. Will it work in Bangkok? That is yet to be seen. Big Andy is right about one thing – when you put things in perspective, a 3,000 baht bar-fine is a good deal considering where most tourist men come from. But the more coyote dancers you have, the more the go-go girls will see they do not have to go out on bar-fines. Why would they have sex with some older tourist or expat if they can simply dance, drink, and make the same money, if not more? The attraction that was once the "bar-fine, go-go dancer" will be lost in Bangkok, if not other places in Thailand as well, and those tourists or expats will look to Cambodia or Angeles City for entertainment.
I don't disagree at all that the gogo bar industry in Bangkok is changing in a way that those who used to enjoy it likely won't enjoy it as much. Simply being able to barfine a girl and take her away to private quarters is probably going to cost a whole lot more in the future and I expect that gogo bars in years to come will be dominated by coyote dancers. Things are certainly moving in that direction.
As far as the use of mobile phones in gogo bars is concerned, I agree with you. The problem is of course that if t heir use was totally prohibited, many girls would walk and go to a bar which allowed them to use their phones, or didn't hassle them so much. And if no bars allowed it, the girls would have no problem adapting and would find other ways to make money. To paraphrase what Andy said, where the girls needed guys (money) in the past, now the guys need the girls !