Stickman's Weekly Column July 26th, 2015

The Big Boys of the Bangkok Bar Industry




When you think about those who operate bars in red-light areas, do you think of the stereotypical sleazy, unshaven guy a with a thick gold chain, a shirt with the top 4 buttons undone like an '80s porn star, a guy with a short fuse who uses his fists to settle any situation which may arise. Is this the typical profile of a Bangkok bar boss?

Bangkok's expat bar industry is dominated by a small number of players who run the full gamut from genuine businessman making good in a dirty industry, to ratbags who would have you believe they are genuine businessman but are anything but, and everything in between.

What follows are a few thoughts on the big boys of Bangkok's bar industry. 8 major bar groups are profiled and graded, starting with the least significant through to the most powerful and influential who shape the industry.







Angelwitch, Bangkok

The Nana Group has been accomplished at ruining what were once successful bars.



#8 The Nana Group

Operates a number of Nana Plaza gogo bars including Angelwitch, DC10, Suckers, Total Obsession & Cascade.

The Nana Group burst on to the scene in dramatic fashion just a few years ago with whispers that a drug dealer with unintelligible English had purchased the 2 Angelwitch bars paying the asking price with cash, around 100 million baht. It turns out that he was not in fact a drug dealer, but a boiler room operator and was looking for somewhere to put his ill-gotten gains.

Not long after, the group launched Las Vegas and Billboard and became known as the Billboard Group, a name which in time changed to the Nana Group.

It looked like the Nana Group might become the biggest name in the industry when the late G took me outside Billboard and stood at the railings atop Nana Plaza, strutting as he did, like he was the king of the world, proudly telling me he had just bought the master lease for the interior of Nana Plaza for 1.2 billion Thai baht – at the time around $40 million. I thought to myself, Oh God, Nana Plaza is fxxxed, all while trying to retain my composure and feign congratulations.

What G didn't want me to write, of course, was that the reason he had bought the Nana Plaza master lease was so he could launder the tens of millions of dollars that he had made in the boiler rooms he was open about operating. It turned out he had not secured the master lease for Nana Plaza and was beaten to it by Eclipse. The word is that G wanted Nana Plaza, but couldn't raise the cash.

The group set about acquiring more properties in the plaza and when they bought out the Crown Group for a reputed 120 million baht, they owned close to half the gogo bars in Nana Plaza and most of the beer bars. The future looked bright, but things didn't stay that way for long…

Led by the inimitable G, the group made all the mistakes rookie bar owners make. Senior members of the gang group were in the plaza most nights, drinking like fish in the bar and snorted white stuff in the toilets. They fxxxed many of the girls they employed. They brought in con men from their boiler room operations – guys they trusted – appointed them as managers, only to see these guys copy the very behaviour of their bosses, get pissed every night and shag the employees; some even got in to fisticuffs with customers and connected Thais and on more than one occasion G had to pay out plenty to smooth things over.

Operating more like a gang than a business – the Nana Group didn't just have ties with the Outlaws, there was some overlap – the group had poor relations with its neighbours. G threatened some bar owners and girls throughout the plaza were terrified of him and his cronies. Some girls referred to G and his band of followers as the farang Mafia.

The Nana Group had zero industry expertise and bit off more than it could chew with its new acquisitions which did miserable trade, the money being made in Billboard and Angelwitch subsidising other bars, particularly those in the Crown Group, some of which were long past their expiry date. Eventually they would sell off the deadwood and there were even rumours that they fell behind on the payments to the Crown Group, said to be 10 million baht a month for one year.

G stepped in to the shadows and the group lost direction. The bully G was sharp and focused when sober but a tyrant when he was drinking. I'm not sure that G's death a few months back had any great effect on the group as he had long since ceded daily operations to his lieutenants. Word around the plaza was that the group's bars were, two girly bars and two ladyboy bars aside, in freefall.

Those running the Nana Group today are quite capable and could turn things around if they put their mind to it. However, most are tipping that they will sell the remaining assets and cash out. Frankly, both the Nana Group and some of its bars are brands damaged beyond repair.

The reason the Nana Group remains significant today is not because it operates the iconic Angelwitch, but because it runs Total Obsession and Cascade, two ladyboy bars that are goldmines, something which would have the ultra-homophobic G turning in his grave!







King's Castle II, Patpong

The classic frontage from King's Castle II was replaced a year or two ago.



#7 The King's Group

Operates many of the gogo bars on Patpong soi 1.

The King's Group has been in business since long before I stepped foot in Bangkok and many of the group's bars have names I have never been able to get my head around like King's Castle, Queen's Castle, Super Queen and King's Corner?

It's more than 20 years since Patpong was overtaken by Nana Plaza as Bangkok's favourite expat bar area and later when Soi Cowboy put Patpong firmly as a distant third, at least in terms of customer numbers in the bar. But even around the turn of the century there was still a pretty good argument that the bars of Patpong 1 had some of the prettiest girls in the industry. King's Castle 1 and 2 have, until the last few years, always had an attractive dance troop. In recent years the recruitment department has let them down, both in terms of numbers and in terms of securing the prettiest dancers. Without pretty dancers, King's Group bars – and Patpong soi 1, in general – has struggled.

To compound Patpong's problems, up until around 10 years or so ago it was the area for ladyboy fans, with more bars with ladyboys. The vast majority of the third sex were employed in King's Group bars like King's Corner. As more bars converted to ladyboys in Nana Plaza there was less reason for ladyboy fans to go to Patpong and the King's Group suffered.

Today, the King's Group bars are seldom talked about by Western bar hounds. The group seems to have rested on its laurels and many King's Group bars are little different today to how they were in the '90s. Cosmetic changes to the frontages of their prime properties – King's Castles I, II and Camelot Castle – have done little to attract punters and the cold & pushy, if admittedly efficient service staff don't exactly give you that warm fuzzy feeling.

The King's Group has long dominated Patpong soi 1 and there's no reason to think that will change any time soon, but then we're talking about Patpong soi 1, the quietest part of any of the 3 major bar areas. Even the top floor of Nana Plaza does better trade than Patpong soi 1 these days – and that's saying something! Patpong's King's Group the now defunct Crown Group of Nana dominated the industry in the '90s. You get the feeling that the King's Group's best days are firmly in the past.







Soi Cowboy, Bangkok

Beautiful neon is The Arab's only worthwhile contribution to Cowboy.


#6 The Arab

Operates 7 gogo bars in Soi Cowboy – Rio, Raw Hide, Déjà Vu, Midnite, Sahara, Kiss and Spice Girls.

No bar industry figure has attracted more criticism in recent years than the one we call The Arab. He is, in fact, an Iranian and a naturalised American. Exactly where the term The Arab came from I am not certain, but I strongly suspect that a certain Baron might have something to do with it.

For many years The Arab has been an easy target for punters and nightlife commentators alike. Why is that?

The initial concerns were the way The Arab conducted business. He tried to get current leaseholders i.e. bar owners cut out of their lease so he could get in and take control of the property. He was embroiled in disputes with other bar owners – who can forget the fight many years ago between his security staff and those from another bar with chairs being thrown across Soi Cowboy! And in the bars he operated he had oppressively harsh policies and punishments for staff.

The Arab either has deep pockets or major backers and has paid higher than the market rate to acquire long-term leases in Cowboy. Sometimes he keeps the bar's name as in the case of Raw Hide. Other times he renames the bar – the long-running Our Place became Sahara.

The Arab always does a good job sprucing bars up, installing a fabulous neon frontage. He then jacks prices up (he was the first operator in Bangkok expat bars to hit 200 baht for a standard drink), puts in a small number of coyote dancers and…..it seems he then just forgets about it! Zero effort is made and it's as if he doesn't care what happens in his bar and whether it makes money or not, all of which has caused many to speculate he is operating a bunch of neon-fronted washing machines.

What pisses off so many about The Arab is that he has so many bars on Soi Cowboy – 7 double-shophouse bars- but they are all poorly run. His very presence prevents those with a passion for the industry from entering the soi and starting up a new, potentially better bar.

The Arab's reputation was so bad at one point that for many expat bargoers his bars were off-limits. It wasn't helped by the sight of him striding along the soi surrounded by a diamond of security staff, although he is hardly unique in this regard. Two other bar bosses, one since deceased, are / were no different.

The Arab agreed to be interviewed by me back in 2009 but at the last minute he said I was not allowed to publish the interview nor mention anything he said on the site. I reluctantly didn't go through with it.

Fans of Soi Cowboy and bar owners alike were furious when word broke a few years ago that he was dead-set on acquiring every bar on Soi Cowboy. Fortunately, that seems to have gone by the wayside and you don't hear much about the man these days.

What many of us cannot understand is how he manages to finance things, paying over the odds to secure a bar lease, spending up large on decorating inside and out, hiring a troop of coyotes and then just sitting back and watching quiet, sometimes empty bars which do little trade, not just month after month, but year after year. Rents are low in Soi Cowboy but can his bars be profitable?

There has been little news of The Arab in recent times as he appears to have opted for a lower profile.







Soi Cowboy, 2005

Tilac Bar, 2005 – the outside has changed but the inside remains much the same – and that ain't a bad thing.



#5 The Tilac Group

Operates a number of bars – naughty and otherwise – plus a restaurant, in and around Soi Cowboy. Amongst them are Tilac, Sam's 2000, Cocktail Club, Love Scene, Penalty Spot and more.

The Tilac Group is not the official name of the group but Tilac is their flagship property so that's the easiest way to refer to them.

The owners have been in charge of iconic Tilac bar in Soi Cowboy since 1986 and have acquired a number of other properties along the way, although they don't shout about their success from the rooftop and the different properties aren't branded in a way that shows they are part of the same group.

My understanding of the ownership structure is that it includes an American, a German and a Thai and in my dealings with them they have been gentlemen, easy to work with and always professional.

For years I was amongst those who felt that Tilac was the best gogo bar in Bangkok, the mix of friendly staff, good music, pretty dancers, fair pricing and the best vibe in the industry making it a bar that many gravitated to night after night.

Perhaps what sets the Tilac group's bars apart is that they are so well-run that you seldom hear of any issues or problems. There will always be the odd mamadragon who pisses punters off, and girls who ask for a lady drink when they're secretly drinking with another customer on the other side of the bar, but in terms of the owners, they don't involve themselves in the sorts of nefarious dealings others in the industry may, and they don't pull tricks like serving fake spirits, padding the bill or filling the stage with underage dancers or foreign nationals.

The owners go about their work in a professional manner and you get the feeling that all they want to do is operate a good, clean business – or at least as much as one can in a dirty industry.

Tilac bar has a high staff retention rate (admittedly not always a good thing in this industry) and while the flagship bar is not what it was several years ago (where is?), it remains a well-run bar that is spotlessly clean and which clearly has time-tested systems that work.

With zero online presence and zero effort made to market their bars, Tilac bar itself and the other bars in the group do well simply because they are well run. More than anything, the Tilac group is proof that it's possible that nice guys who do things right can be successful in a dirty industry and can rise to the top.







Hillary Bar, Soi Nana

Hillary 4 on Soi Nana, one of the 4 Hillary beer bars.


#4 The Hillary Group

Operator of the 4 Hillary bars, Morning Night and Climax.

With 4 beer bars on Soi Nana (Hillary 1, 2, 4 and Morning Night) and Hillary 3 and Climax on Sukhumvit soi 11, the Hillary Group has a strong presence in two of the busiest entertainment sois in the heart of the farang section of Sukhumvit. What sets the Hillary Group apart from the other bar areas profiled is that it's headed by a gracious, highly successful Thai lady.

Whether it is operated under the Hillary Group banner I am not sure, but the owner of the Hillary Group also holds the lease for the 9 (?) shophouses out the front of Nana Plaza through which Stumble Inn and co. sub-lease. Two of those bars comprising 4 of those shophouses are operated by the Hillary Group themselves.

With excellent connections, some of the Hillary Group properties remain open well after other venues have closed. Climax and the Hillary bars further down Soi Nana are usually open until 4 AM or later which is a huge advantage and almost a licence to print money.

The owner of the Hillary Group has good connections with the Thai music industry and mini concerts are often held in the Hillary bars with the likes of Sek Loso having performed numerous times, along with other big names.

The Hillary bars are well-run and the likes of Hillary 1, 2, 4 and Morning Night offer variety so you can look for a companion or just relax and enjoy good music. As such, the Hillary bars have developed a strong following.







Rainbow 4, Nana Plaza

Rainbow 4 has long been one of the best bars of its genre.


#3 Rainbow Group

Gogo bar operator in Nana Plaza with 4 hugely successful bars – Rainbows 1, 2, 3 & 4.

There's a decent argument that the 4 Rainbow bars in Nana Plaza would all feature in a list of the top 10 gogo bars in Bangkok. The Rainbow Group is not a group per se. Like many Thais in the bar business, the owners are fiercely guarded and reveal little about themselves and the operation, especially to pesky columnists like me. My understanding is that 2 members of the same family each operate and run two Rainbow bars.

All of the Rainbow bars do well, and Rainbow 4 in particular has been wildly successful with an estimated nightly turnover in excess of half a million baht. Only Bacarra does more trade. Rainbow 4 has consistently been one of the 2 busiest bars in Bangkok for much of the past decade and with Rainbow 1 and 2 both dating back to the '90s, the Rainbow Group has done elegantly well for a very long time. The owners must have banked many millions – dollars, not baht.

The Rainbow bars have eschewed the ways of modern bars which complicate things. The Rainbow bars stick to the basics and do those basics very, very well. The Rainbow bars consistently have great lineups with some the most attractive dancers in the gogo industry. They play music that most can tolerate and serve drinks no more expensive than anywhere else. Forget fancy bar frontages, hip-hop / house / trance music and there are few overweight dancers, no shows, no need for happy hours or promotions and no gimmicky parties. You will never see a pig on a spit outside a Rainbow bar. It's hot girls dancing to good music in a bars which you'd describe, kindly, as functional. The basic formula works as well today as it did 20 years ago and the Rainbow bars are goldmines.

As good as the Rainbow bars are, they're not the best bars to have a good time. You don't see groups having a party in Rainbow 4 as you do in, say, Dollhouse or Club Electric Blue. The Rainbow bars are all about finding someone to bar fine.

The operators of the Rainbow bars have stuck to their winning formula. Why would they even think about changing when they have been – and continue to be – so hugely successful.







PlaySkool, Nana Plaza

PlaySkool, one of the bars in the Stumble Inn Group.


#2 The Stumble Inn Group

Operates beer bars, gogo bars, ladyboy bars and a short-time hotel in the Nana and Cowboy areas. Their venues include Stumble Inn, Big Dogs, Lucky Luke's, Playskool, Mercury, Hollywood Inn, Temptations, Cockatoo and the Nana Beer Garden (all the beer bars in the centre of Nana Plaza).

The English-owned group which brands itself as The Stumble Inn Group has mirrored the bar after which it is named and has expanded from a small, single shophouse out the front of Nana Plaza to a giant 3-shophouse bar featuring maidens, pool tables, live music, a kitchen and live sports. The Stumble Inn Group features a mix of bars including gogo bars, ladyboy bars, beer bars and even a short-time hotel.

Headed by an Englishman who was successful in business in his homeland i.e. a genuine businessman, what separates this group from most is their willingness not just to invest in the industry, but to spend money to create great bars and improve on existing bars.

An example of the level of detail that the owners of the Stumble Inn Group are prepared to go to is evidenced by the renovation job they did on PlaySkool. The entire bar was stripped back to the shell and completely rebuilt to Western standards. They were fussy about the type of seating installed, concerned that it would be genuinely comfortable for customers to sit in so said customers would stay not just for one drink, but a long time. They made a point to install proper toilets and insist that they are kept clean throughout the night and even installed a vestibule to ensure that what goes on inside is not seen by lookyloos lingering outside. They want to create comfortable bars that add to the whole experience. You get the feeling that if they were to operate an English pub there's every chance it would be one of the best in town.

With such a diverse portfolio of properties in the Nana area, and some in Cowboy, and keen to expand further, the Stumble Inn Group has grown rapidly to become the second most significant group in Bangkok's expat bar areas, beaten only by…..







Nana Plaza renovation

The redesign and renovations of Nana Plaza by Eclipse took place in 2012.


#1 Eclipse

Eclipse owns and runs an entire bar area (Nana Plaza – as in the whole complex) and a huge number and variety of bars and restaurants in downtown Bangkok and beyond, including Bacarra, Q Bar, Insanity, Eden Club, Bangkok Beat, The Australian, The Kiwi and a heap more venues including many along Sukhumvit soi 11.

Eclipse is totally dominant as the largest bar group in Bangkok – no other group comes close. The operation is run from a highly secure, multi-storey HQ on Sukhumvit soi 39 where a large team of staff including many foreigners oversee the Eclipse empire.

Eclipse's approach is a little different from other groups. The group's principals identify successful bars and may put in an offer on the business, even if it is not on the market. Countless successful bars have been bought out by Eclipse including Bacarra, Insanity, Q Bar, Soi 8 Pub, Bangkok Beat and Eden Club.

Eclipse has massive financial resources and are always looking to make new acquisitions and willing to pay fair market price. Eclipse has developed a reputation for being the group to go to for any bar owner looking to cash out. Insanity is said to have set Eclipse back many millions of baht – as in many tens of millions – while the likes of Eden Club and Bangkok Beat are said to have gone for well over $1 million each.

Sometimes Eclipse improves and rebrands properties – Soi 8 Pub is now known as The Kiwi – and other times they mess them up or are unable to make them work, such as Q Bar which has gone downhill and Nana Disco (rebranded as Mai Peng, by Eclipse). Successes outnumber failures and many of the properties Eclipse has acquired have gone on to do elegantly well; think Bacarra, Insanity and The Australian to name but a few.

The jewel in Eclipse's crown is Nana Plaza, as in the entire bar area. At the time Eclipse took over, emails from the top dog (Eclipse has more leaks than a sieve) indicated Eclipse had purchased the plaza for the baht equivalent of $US 30 million although this figure is often disputed.

Long mired in controversy, Eclipse is in fact no longer called Eclipse. Despite not branding any of its businesses with the parent company's name, the massive investments Eclipse has made along Sukhumvit put it so far ahead of all other farang bar operators and in the big league with the Thais.

Leaked emails show that Eclipse boasts in excess of $60 million in assets in Bangkok's bar industry which makes it the biggest player in Bangkok's expat bar areas by a long way. The group's deep pockets mean it's likely to stay that way.









Where was this photo taken?


Bangkok


Last week's photo was of the abandoned hotel building at the mouth of Sukhumvit soi 27, a shot I thought was easy but only a handful of readers got it right.





FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK Fighting entropy in the shark tank.

Four of us were in Shark last night. A mediocre selection of bored farm-girls half heartedly vied for trade. Four or five "approached the bench" to beg drinks, run their half-assed flirtations and "take me" plays. Some could clearly track our mood. It was getting near 12. Some of the smarter ones started to parody themselves and what they do for a living. Each one who mimed their own pass routine was attempting to out schtick the other. It was comedy. I've seen them laugh at us before but this time it was us laughing at them and they knew we were all laughing at them. Half the gallery on one side was laughing and shaking their head. Even the Sons of Heaven were laughing. The girl was shocked. The Mamapimp was bewildered. I figured that the fake-booze dykes behind the bar were gonna get it next so we paid up and bailed. All in good fun, right?

Dirty clean fun.

Went to Emmanuel soapy massage which is considered one of the top 5. Prices were 2,500 – 5,500 baht for 90 minutes of dirty clean fun. The girls are tagged not only with a number but a corresponding letter which dictates where they sit on the 10-tier pricing scale. We ended up with 2 fine "S" girls at 3,400 baht each. Rooms were clean and both girls went beyond the call of duty. Multiple shots can be heard without any complaining. Where can you get that much fun with an actress for 90 minutes for USD 100 anywhere in the world?

Misrepresenting Pattaya?

I am not sure if it was conscious but you seemed to have dug up photos of all the oldest, ugliest hags in your Beach Road photo essay and I was wondering if you were trying to convey what a generally used, up ugly place Patts has become (and has been for a long time). I could only spot 1 or 2 attractive girls in all your photos and several were downright frightening! I lived in Pattaya for 7 years and while there are plenty dogs there are just as many true hotties most everywhere, except Beach Road. Your photos sure don't give that impression. I've long since had my fill of Pattaya's craziness but there are still many who find it an adult Disneyland full of beautiful women and lots of excitement so why do you want to kill the dream?

The changing industry.

It caught my eye the other day that the staff wanted sign outside Dollhouse quoted not only the monthly salary for various staff roles, but the daily salary. Intriguing. Is this the way to beat the Thai friendlies of this world? Have girls come and go, working on daily rates? Might work, getting in the girls who want a bit of cash now and then, without committing to being a day-in day-out bargirl.






Where to live?

I've got a Thai girlfriend who is cute and hard-working. It has been months and we are not past the handholding stage. Nightlife close to non-existent. Happy being around her and she looks out for me too. But I still spend six months in USA, keeping close to family and hanging on to Medicare. Only marriage would keep me in LOS full time. And that would kill the friendship with the first unpleasantness. Only disastrous health problems would keep me in US full time. What to wish for?

The joys of Nakhon Sawan.

Now I know what a horde is. While at a nice resort in Nakhon Sawan, late in the evening, about 10 PM, hundreds of thousands of tiny flying insects like house flies started showing up by some outside lights. Then they started coming in to the room by the thousands. I shut off the room lights and they covered the TV screen as it was the only light still on. The white bath towel in the closed hong nam looked black, there were so many of them! The little fxxxers hurt when they bite so it was lights out at an early 11 PM and under the covers to see what would happen. Gradually they left the room to go toward the outside lights and finally I could get some sleep. In the morning there were thousands of tiny bodies under a set of opaque cinder blocks that let light in but which do not open. I guess they saw the light but couldn't get out and died off. The next night was terrible waiting for the return of the hordes but only had a few left buzzing the outside lights and none got into the room, even with the lights on. Not fun at all.

Queuing to shop.

I am amazed major shopping malls in Thailand don't open until 11 AM. Maybe there is a simple answer to it. Yesterday I arrived at Central Festival at 10:55 AM and there were about 100 people waiting to enter. I don't know how many entrances there are but there must have been a lot of people at other points of entry as well.

Why do Brits have gappy teeth (and Thais don't)?

I have both worked and vacationed in Thailand since 1979 and it has occurred to me broadly speaking that Thais have very good teeth. I am now retire in England and see so many people with spaces between their teeth, and it just struck me when I'm in Thailand I have never noticed that. Is it down to diet? You know the country well and I wonder if you know why?



Bangkok MILFS

A mock-up of the signs for Bangkok Bunnies and Bangkok MILFs from the bar owner.



Two of the more interesting new Nana Plaza bars mentioned in recent columns are both now under construction and not far away from opening. Work is progressing on the structure that will house Bangkok MILFs in the area outside the bar once known as Voodoo. (MILF is a term I am told comes from the porn industry which if you did not know – I didn't – stands for Mothers I'd Like to Fxxx). The space is now enclosed and it's all taking shape. Bangkok Bunnies will be the largest gogo bar in Bangkok when complete and is in the space that was Pretty Lady (now Spellbound) along with the bar next door, most recently known as Underground. The owner tells me that Bangkok Bunnies will be the first gogo bar with a true VIP area featuring Italian leather seating, a private bathroom area, snacks provided and a private music playlist may be requested. The level of service in the VIP area will be better than in your average chrome pole bar.

The mainstream media this week reported a new regulation prohibiting the sale of alcohol within 300 metres of a school. Not just bars, but even convenience stores within a 300-metre radius are prohibited from selling alcohol. The only exceptions in Bangkok are the three designated entertainment zones – Patpong, RCA and some stretches of Rachadapisek Road. This regulation came out of nowhere and could spell disaster for bar areas; already there have been reports and interviews with Thai bar owners who have been in business for decades whose business may no longer be viable. With regards to the main farang bar area, Sukhumvit, there are potentially problems. Down Soi Nana there is a small international school and I'd bet the farm that while it is 300+ metres beyond the plaza, there are bars that are less than 300 metres from it. But this being Thailand, they are not affected. There is also a school within 300 metres of Soi Cowboy, but both the police and the army have told Soi Cowboy bar owners that despite the new regulations, they don't apply to Soi Cowboy. My initial thoughts were that this is another of those knee-jerk crackdowns announced to much fanfare and completely forgotten about a couple of weeks later as things revert to normal and continue as they always have. This time around it might be different, but can't help but feel that those in power i.e. the local authorities will use this regulation as yet another means to solicit donations from business owners who will be reminded of the new law when tea money is due. For the average punter who ventures out to the farang bar areas, it looks like it will be business as usual.

The wonderfully named Pussy Collection on Patpong soi 1 closed its doors some time ago in what was a financial decision by the owners with business slow on Patpong soi 1. Pussy Collection consistently had the lowest turnover of the bars in the group hence that was the venue chosen to shut down. The owners have contemplated re-opening for some time and finally it looks like it may happen. If / when it does re-open, expect something of a domino effect on the dancer line-ups across the bars in the group. Right now, the majority of dancers in Goldfinger are from Kiss and were brought in to try and get Goldfinger rocking. If Pussy Collection reopens presumably they will go back to Kiss. The dancers now at Kiss – many of whom originally danced at Pussy Connection – will return to the re-opened Pussy Connection, which would leave Goldfinger very light on dancer numbers. Let's see how this all plays out.

For the sake of the greater Patpong area, the bars in soi 1 need to pull their socks up. In recent years Patpong has been like a bipolar girlfriend – soi 2 has been great, soi 1 horrible. What is interesting is that most of the bars in soi 2 are foreign-owned while Patpong soi 1 bars are predominately Thai-owned.

Over in the Nana area, the workmen are in Candy Land 1 doing a refit.

The oldest bar in Nana Plaza is Lucky Luke's, the beer bar just inside the entranceway to the plaza. It is currently closed and undergoing a refit which will come with a name change. it is hoped that it will reopen in the first week of next month.

A previous column made mentioned that the blowjob bar, Lollipop 1 on Sukhumvit soi 10, would be closing this month because of a rent increase. Said increase has not happened and blowjobs are still available to anyone willing to risk putting their phallus near the mouth of ladies who look scary at a distance (and that is as close as I have been!).

A reminder that this Thursday and Friday are two of the major Buddhist holidays and I'd expect that most bars, the Patpong area aside, will be closed.

Manager Jim of Club Electric Blue in Patpong soi 2 will sign out this coming week for the last time and a farewell party will be held on Saturday, August 1st. Jim isn't leaving the bar alone and will be taking Mamasan Nid with him – Jim & Nid have been romantically involved for some time. Mama Nid has worked for Club Electric Blue for over 10 years, both in Bangkok and the original Pattaya location. Jim has been a popular member of the team for the last couple of years and has developed a following amongst those who prefer Patpong over the other bar areas. He will be missed. Jim's replacement, Paul, will be there to meet and greet customers new and old at Jim's farewell party.





The small street-side bar at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy, just around the corner in the direction of Citibank, is attached to The Corner Bar and opens around 5 PM – just as hundreds of thousands of office workers leave work for the day and file out of downtown office buildings. Opening well before any of the other portable bars at the Asoke intersection roll in to place, I always found walking past that end of Soi Cowboy late afternoon and twilight to be a right pain. Bangkok pavements are congested enough without these crappy streetside bars and their at times offensive staff making it hard to get past. It's a wonder they are allowed to operate so early when there has been a genuine (yes, genuine) crackdown on street vendors. Obviously the right palms are being greased.

It's amazing how often you see foreign film crews filming in and around the bar areas. They can spend many hours – sometimes even days – in the area, and the end result is usually a short scene, perhaps even just a few seconds shot in the bar. This past Monday, a Korean film crew was in Tilac. Why is it that Tilac is often the bar film crews shoot inside? Probably because it's one of the best-run bars and the owners are easy to work with, would be my guess.

Down in Pattaya, things are heading for a very messy conclusion at a certain sports bar on soi 11, off Second Road. The bar lease is said to be on the market for 2 million baht. The boss man has not been seen in the bar after things deteriorated with his Mrs. who has long been the bar's cashier. Currently she is running the bar with her new boyfriend sitting right there beside her. The boss is a strapping golfer with the build of an All Blacks lock while the new boyfriend is more like a scrawny Wallaby halfback. With sporting memorabilia hanging on the walls and live sports event shown it is popular with Aussies and Kiwis. The word is that the fellow who the bar is named after was caught in the wrong bed. Perhaps he listened to those fools who say that Thai wives are ok with playing away from home so long as they don't know about it.

A new venue, Day Of The Dead Bar, opens on Khao San Road next Saturday, August 1st, just a few doors along from Gulliver's. It's a bar first and a restaurant second, serving the fine Sunrise Tacos fare. Daryl Scott, one of the kingpins of Bangkok nightlife and the man such greats success as Bed Supper Club, is the project manager and a shareholder of the venue.



Day Of The Dead, Khao San Road, Bangkok



Pattaya Bay Resort used to be a very popular hotel amongst the naughty boy crowd. The staff were much friendlier than your average Pattaya hotel, the hotel was run very well by the North American who built it and it was the little touches like a good quality breakfast, a tuktuk that ran you to the end of the soi and long-stay discounts that set it apart from the hundreds of mid-range hotels in Sin City. It's a few years since ownership changed and recent reviews haven't been great. One friend who stayed there recently commented that staff morale was low across the board, from reception to housekeeping to the restaurant staff. The standard of food at breakfast is not what it was but worst of all, the room he was in was infested with ants. Here's hoping they can turn it around.

For readers in Australia keen to enjoy some Thai beer at home, Aldi is advertising 6-packs of Singha and Leo. Leo works out at 300 baht and Singha 325. The ad says Leo is exclusively sold in Australia by Aldi.

Wow, the baht really took a hit this week, continuing its slide and dropping a full 2% in value this week. If you're changing foreign currency at one of Bangkok's private money changer booths you'll get almost 35 baht for greenbacks and a touch below 54 baht for English pounds. Such favourable rates have not been seen in quite some time.

Bangkok is SO much wealthier than the rest of Thailand and as such, generalising about Thailand when it comes to the cost of living, numbers fluctuate wildly. You can probably throw Phuket in with Bangkok and maybe parts of Samui too, but even then it's hard to generalise. Bangkok is like no other city in the country, not just in terms of size and population, but in terms of wealth and the cost of living.

There seems to be a disproportionately high percentage of expats in Thailand who are an only child. Am I right about that and if I am, why is it that those without siblings are seemingly attracted to Thailand?



Electric Blue Patpong



Reader story of the week comes from JasonX, "When Bargirls Leave Their Mark (Literally)".

An American arrested in Phuket on suspicion of fraud back in the United States faces extradition.

Numerous reports of long queues at Don Meuang Airport

result in new security check measures being abandoned.

A Ruskie takes a couple of ladyboys back to a hotel room in Pattaya, catches them stealing and has his face slashed.

Thankfully someone is speaking out about the need for a solution to Bangkok's sinking problem.

The Daily Mail asks if Thai police missed key evidence in the killing of 2 English backpackers on Ko Tao.

Thai Airways will axe Thailand – United States flights in October.

Critics complain that the new curbs on alcohol sales go too far and hurt business.



Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal



Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.



Question 1: I just had a big split with my Thai girlfriend of 18 months. Things got nasty and I said some bad things about her on Facebook. It was done here in Australia. Can I be in trouble when I come back to Thailand? She has not told me I will be in trouble so I am a little worried as she talked about going to the police about the comments I made about her. I am coming to Bangkok next week to see friends. Can Immigration stop me when I fly in? I am worried. Any advice would be most welcome.

Sunbelt Legal responds: We've all been on the wrong end of a failed relationship and we've all complained about our exes. However, in this day and age of social media it is usually best to keep it offline and in person instead of publishing it for all the world to see. Even on Facebook which allows for limited audiences, if the wrong person sees your post it can easily be recorded and passed along.

So, when complaining about your ex, it's best to do it over beers with your friends because there is a chance that she could take your posts to the police and file a criminal case of defamation against you. Since defamation is a criminal charge in Thailand, if she has filed charges then there may be an outstanding warrant for your arrest and you could be arrested at the airport.

If she did file the complaint and you were charged then the ruling would depend on what she is asking for; she could ask for compensation or she could ask for a restoration of her reputation with a public apology in the newspaper for instance. There is a chance that you could be arrested at the airport to fulfill her claim or you could be refused entry in to Thailand.

However, this is all dependent on whether or not she did actually go and file charges. Unfortunately, it is not possible to check if there is an outstanding warrant for you without knowing the jurisdiction in which she filed the complaint, if she filed a complaint at all, that is.



Question 2: I have recently moved from Bangkok to Europe and paid a company to pack and itemise my personal belongings (including providing a packing list for import purposes) and to store my possessions for 3 months pending shipping back to the EU. When the packers arrived they failed to list the items they were packing so I called the manager who assured me that the listing of contents would be provided. I also had a Thai friend call to confirm this. The packing list I subsequently received was incomplete and when I queried this I was given an altered list. My belongings were packed and stored at the company 'warehouse' which was described as 'good, safe, clean with 24-hour security from Group 4'. When I came to collect my belongings 3 months later it was apparent that they had been damaged whilst in storage: the warehouse was not a warehouse but the ground floor of a shophouse infested with rats who had chewed and destroyed a lot of my furniture. I have also checked with Group 4: they have no record of providing security to the company I engaged as stated in the contract I signed. Furthermore, the amended packing list proved to be pure fiction, and the manager verbally admitted this: goods stated to be in specific boxes did not correspond to actual contents which may cause me problems when my container arrives in a few weeks' time and I may incur additional charges due to the need for more comprehensive inspection by Customs here. I would like to know what legal recourse I can take for financial compensation. I have tried calling and emailing the company but they don't respond to emails and won't answer their phone. As I see it they have deliberately mis-sold what they were offering:
– They did not provide a packing list and then made it up when I queried it (which may cause me additional charges).
– Their 'warehouse' was not as described, nor was the security.
– My belongings have been damaged (I have photographic evidence of them at the warehouse) and the cost of replacement will be at least 100k baht.
Any advice / thoughts appreciated!

Sunbelt Legal responds: You may have grounds to sue the company for damages in a civil court case or you can first try filing a complaint with the Office of the Consumer Protection Board. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors strongly advises that you meet with a lawyer to discuss the best course of action in this issue as should it be done incorrectly the company could possibly countersue for defamation should they feel you have defamed their business. A lawyer could help you ensure that you follow all procedures correctly in making your claim and ensuring you are not at risk for a counter suit.



Question 3: We are interested in finding out more about the conveyancing process in Thailand. An apartment in Thailand has been the subject of a Contract of Sale since the second half of 2014. Settlement of the sale has not yet taken place. We have been advised that for a sale of property to be effected, both Court approval and Land Department registration for the transfer is required. Is it reasonable that the process could still not be finalised a year after the contract was entered in to?

Sunbelt Legal responds: It is possible for the ownership transfer to take place a year after the Purchasing Contract has been executed, especially for a work in progress condominium project. This is where the purchaser pays their downpayment on a monthly basis which may add up to 10 – 15% of the purchasing price. Once the building has been completed and is ready for the transfer, the remaining 85 – 90% will be paid to the Seller (and / or his bank) at the Land Office upon the ownership transfer registration.

Transfer of the ownership of a condominium unit either newly built or second-hand will need to take place at the respective Land Office.

Occasionally and for second hand condominiums, to complete the ownership transfer, the process may require an approval / consent from a court. This is usually in the case where the owner of the unit (name listed in the ownership certificate) is still a minor. Or if the owner of the unit is deceased and an executor of the estate needs to be appointed before the transfer could take place.

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors can help you in determining the issues behind your condo purchase should you need assistance.







Club Electric Blue


I can look myself in the mirror each and every day and be quite comfortable with what I see. When a Thai ex once blurted out that I worship the truth she meant it as an insult. I took it as a compliment. The main complaint I get about this column is not the fact that I put it together remotely. Neither is the main complaint that there is too much nightlife content, nor that there is not enough nightlife content. The most common complaint is that I am not positive about the state of the bar industry these days. The reason for that is simple – that's how I genuinely feel about it. I'm not going to tell you something is great when that's not what I really think. I'm not a marketing guy or a salesperson; I am a commentator. I could have made a fortune from this site if I had put a more positive spin on the bar biz, and not dwelled on some of the nasty stuff or written with a tone that truly matched my feelings. In life I believe it's best to be honest, come what may. This approach has served me well and I have no intention of changing. I make no apologies if you think I am overly negative at times.



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick