Our world is experiencing a period of great uncertainty. How long until Covid-19 is brought under control? Will there be a vaccine and if so, when? When can we get back to Bangkok and when we do, what will we find? To answer the last question, we will find noticeable changes at Nana Plaza. And with those changes comes opportunity.
There were always going to be casualties of Covid-19 in the bar area. Rumours continue to swirl about which bars will reopen and which won’t. Last week’s column listed the bars in Nana Plaza which it is confirmed will not reopen. Inside the plaza, Casanova, PlaySkool, Mercury, Rainbow 1 & Rainbow 3 and London Calling will not be back. And on the outside, Hillary 4.
Empty spaces in Nana Plaza are like a 1,000 baht note sitting on the ground on Sukhumvit Road – they don’t stay that way for long.
Never before has real estate in Nana become available like this. The Covid-19 era has provided the greatest opportunity to obtain a lease or pick up a well-known bar.
These spaces are all available now. Most of the bars have furniture along with air-conditioning systems and the usual bar equipment. Some bars only need speakers.
This sort of opportunity doesn’t come along often and right now it’s a buyer’s market.
Why should you even think about buying a bar / investing in Nana Plaza?
Opportunity knocks for those who have considered it but never taken the step forward.
The bar operators leaving Nana Plaza have done so for various reasons. Some have been around almost as long as the plaza itself and are ready to kick back and enjoy retirement. There is no “buying” the bar from the previous owner. New blood with new ideas have a chance to take over well-known bars, essentially for almost nothing.
The landlord at Nana Plaza has offered 50% rent breaks for 8 months and a freeze in rents for the near future. Yes, it is going to be a difficult period for a while so the landlord has come to the party, so to speak.
Nana Partners which operates Nana Plaza is offering flexible lease agreements which allow tenants to create a lease that works for them. Deals are there to be made with the management of Nana Plaza willing to be flexible and listen to ideas from potential tenants.
Leases signed now will come at significantly reduced rents until the tourism industry has recovered.
The leases for bars in Nana Plaza are the longest in the country. Nana Plaza leases range from 9 – 12 years. Compare that with, for example, Patpong which has one-year rolling leases and Soi Cowboy where leases are more typically 3 – 6 years.
The owners of Nana have invested heavily in the complex and will continue to do so. The roof built over Nana Plaza a few years back was a great improvement, allowing customers to wander from bar to bar in the rainy season without getting wet. Awnings were removed recently to open it up more and further improvements are planned.
Nana Plaza is a pure nightlife area and the footfall of genuine punters is greater than Cowboy and Patpong which each tend to get a lot of mainstream visitors and looky-loos there to snap photos and get a selfie before moving on, perhaps not spending even a single baht while there.
Nana Plaza is private property. Soi Cowboy and the sois at Patpong are open at each end with no control of access in and out of the area. At Nana Plaza there is one way in and one way out with a security checkpoint, making Nana Plaza the safest bar area in Bangkok. Local riff-raff are kept out, as are ladies not of legal age.
The owners of Nana Plaza are experienced in the nightlife industry and are ready to support tenants.
Nana Plaza benefits from being home to the top two gogo bars in Bangkok – Billboard & Butterflies – and all other tenants benefit from the footfall that these uber popular bars attract.
Interest is being shown in several of the vacant spaces from existing groups and also from some newcomers.
I’m conservative by nature and I am very conservative as an investor. The worst investments I have made have been those I have looked at but then chosen not to pull the trigger on….and the rest is history. If you’ve ever thought about running a bar or entering the bar business, this is probably your best chance to secure a space in Bangkok’s most popular bar complex.
* Anyone interested in the available bars / space in Nana Plaza, can contact Khun Supachai on +66 6-1541-9789 or by email : [email protected]
Last week’s photo was taken from the pathway between Lumpini Park and Benjakit Park. I was looking north over the old short-time motel on Soi Ruamrudee with All Season’s Place in the background. Due to the past few weeks’ photos being rather challenging, this week’s is (or so I think) a little easier.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Refusing to accept philandering.
It’s not just singles who are remaining so. It’s divorcees too. The other half has a niece who thought she had married well – a member of the constabulary. Par for the course, he has taken to the turps daily, and has also been caught with another. Very attractive, and with a daughter she can lavish her love on, she has left, is currently building her own house, and is covering living expenses selling cookies in local markets and via Facebook. She is not stupid – she has seen what has happened to other relatives who have had relationship after relationship, and is not going down that path.
A concern of modern Thai women.
Thai women are fed up with the mia noi stuff. But it’s not just that, you know what some of my Mrs’ friends’ biggest concern is? They’re scared stiff that their boyfriend will come out and say he’s gay. They’ve lost count of how many times they’ve heard Thai women say that their boyfriend announced he’s gay. There’s no issue being gay in Thailand. I’ve lost count how many times I was introduced to men in Thailand who were openly gay. There seems to be a much higher percentage of gay men in Thailand than in other countries. If they’re gay from the start, girls don’t seem to care but it’s the ones who hide it or are confused and then one day switch sides where it gets messy, especially when there are children involved.
Good times on the balcony.
I was sitting on my balcony with 5 other expats having a few cold ones and watching the sun set. We all agree that we have no intention of running back to the bars when they reopen. The idea of being in a crowded environment just does not seem exciting any more. All of us have a number of lady friends so we decided that instead of meeting in a bar we would all pitch in and buy a portable gas BBQ and take turns hosting our own private get-togethers. So now instead of meeting 3 times a week at a bar and then moving from bar to bar as you do, we will meet 3 times a week on a roster system at our respective condos. No more barfines, lady drinks or crappy music. Now it will be good company, good food, great music at a volume that allows conversation and we still get the pleasure of a cool towel.
Thailand toilet norms.
In my 25 years of interacting with and observing Thais, I’m struck by their propensity not only to make phone calls while using the toilet, but also to flush without muting. They find nothing shameful about it.
About the Sukhumvit soi 7 Biergarten, the German guy who was an owner was named Berndt. He had a shaggy brown moustache and brown hair down to his shoulders. Back when I lived on Sukhumvit soi 8 from 2002 – 2004, there were two partnered Biergartens – one on soi 7, and one on soi 8. The one on soi 8 then moved to soi 19 – where it still is today. I got to know Berndt when I lived on soi 8 – and he once took me as his guest to the soi 7 venue – where they treated him like an owner. Between 5 and 10 years ago, I used to see him all the time at the soi 19 location, but I haven’t seen him at all over the past 3 or 4 years. Looking down from Nana BTS station today, I saw that the Biergarten had a circus-crest of four or five flags around its entrance – including the Thai national flag, the yellow Thai flag, and a couple of flags that looked something like German, British, or Belgian flags. It looks like it still has life.
The delights of the Biergarten.
Surprised about the Biergarten. No doubt property developers are keen on it. Thailand has some Napoleonic laws on some properties which come from Ancient Rome. They are called usufruct laws. Basically, if you tend the land and nurture fruit trees, it’s yours! Literally, use the fruit of the land! Not many fruits in the Biergarten but its garden name possibly indicates nurturing and picking when ripe. Delicate, soft interiors. Paradise is from the Persian meaning a walled garden. Maybe it will change its name?
News broke Thursday that Thailand would open up on July 1st with restrictions lifted on everything including international travel. Looking at the bars which remain closed, does that mean come July 1st they have the green light to reopen? And does it mean the border will reopen to everyone? The article in the Bangkok Post came out of the blue, especially when you consider the lengths to which the government had shut things down to contain the virus. Details about just what will happen come July 1st were scant. If the border really does open on July 1st, I expect there will be all sorts of requirements and restrictions on incoming travellers. This just seems too soon to throw the doors open and allow anyone to enter – but then the other side of it is that opening the doors and throwing down the welcome mat to the world would be an advantage in getting visitors back, and attracting new visitors before others had the chance to do so. Savvy, or reckless? No doubt more information and announcements will follow soon.
A friend tried to check out what is happening in the Biergarten, and tried to gain physical access to the property in the hope of speaking to someone who might know. He was not successful with access blocked by padlocks on the front gate. He noted no signs indicating closing, and no indications of the removal of bar furnishings etc. This is one rumour I’d really like to get to the bottom of.
And after the news that Vinai, the long-time owner of Cosmos in Patpong soi 2, had called it a day comes news that there is a movement to save Cosmos. Word is that some of the old Thai customers of Cosmos are having words with Vinai and hoping he will change his mind.
If you asked me to select a few gogo bars which I thought would not reopen, I would probably have named some of the smaller single-shophouse bars on Soi Cowboy. They never seem to do great trade and you seldom hear people mentioning them. But it looks like I am wrong about any of them closing with word from the owners that Jungle Jim, Toy, Moonshine and Fanny – all single-shophouse bars on Soi Cowboy – will all reopen when the bars eventually get the green light.
Some of the Thai partnerships in Nana Plaza have decided to split up their stable moving forward which will likely be a good thing as they are now in competition and not in cahoots.
Down in Pattaya, desperate and hungry locals are spending hours in long queues in the hot sun for a free meal. In some cases people have joined queues early in the AM for food that will not be handed out until well in to the PM. The photo below of one such queue was taken on Soi Diana. That queue snaked from Soi Diana, through Soi LK metro, along Soi Buakhao, up Soi Chaiyapoom – what the locals call Soi Pothole – up past the Continental Bakery on Soi Excite and all the way up to 3rd road. With no government help for many in these unprecedented times, no work means no food. It’s getting really grim for some in Pattaya.
I am told by friends resident in Bangkok that one of the positives in Bangkok at present is the way most taxi drivers automatically reach for the meter without a word. Of course, there’s still the odd chancer asking for funny money to go a short distance – but at the end of the day most cabbies are grateful for whatever fares they get and the nonsense is less prevalent for the time-being.
Spare a thought for the motorbike taxi riders all over Bangkok for whom their bread and butter is ferrying folks up and down long sois. The team on Soi Nana are really feeling the pinch with Nana Plaza closed, all the beer bars closed and even the mothership – Nana Hotel – closed. Soi Nana hasn’t been itself since March and that slice of Bangkok known so well to many foreigners is like a mini-ghost town. A mate used the services of one of the motorcycle riders on Soi Nana at 8 PM one night this past week and was told that he was only his second customer that day.
Still on Soi Nana, the boys in brown made a show on Thursday night of rounding up a dozen or so streetwalkers who were carted off to the Lumpini cop shop, fined 100 baht each and sent on their way. A pointless exercise and waste of everybody’s time.
Is it any wonder so many restaurants are struggling to attract customers to dine in when some venues insist that every person sits at a different table, even if they arrived together, will go home together and quite possibly sleep in the same bed together. And it makes a total mockery of public transport when at peak hour strangers are well within each other’s personal space and there’s as much social distancing going on as there are Thais conversing with one another in Russian. Sometimes Thailand gets things horribly wrong – and I can see why some restaurateurs are in despair at this nonsense.
Word is that yet more restaurants and smaller eateries are serving booze under the table. If you can’t see the point in going out for dinner if you cannot enjoy a drink or three with your food, ask around and you’ll find more than a few places happy to accommodate you.
With Covid-19 prompting some companies to ask staff to work from home, there are mixed reactions from Thais. Some like it – not having to travel to work in Bangkok is a huge time-saver, whereas others miss their friends and the social life that comes with working in an office. I would have thought it would be a disaster for productivity given how many Thais have poor self-discipline. But one business owner tells me that for him it seems to be working and his staff seem to be more efficient when they work from home. He said part of it comes down to a lack of distractions (I thought there would be even more distractions at home) i.e. staff not taking turns popping out to get snacks for everyone, no intense 30-minute discussion where the gang will eat lunch etc. That there is no long commute might be part of it as they get a better night’s sleep and might be fresher when undertaking their duties.
On that topic, there has been plenty in the news about businesses in Bangkok being unable to pay rent and how some (prime) office space has become available. It does make you wonder what it means for commercial buildings going forward, especially when you consider all of the construction going on in Bangkok with some massive office towers and “business parks” such as those along Rama 4 Road which will massively increase the amount of office space available for rent. Bricks and mortar in Bangkok? Bricks and slaughter is more like it.
There has been much criticism of Thailand refusing entry to its own citizens who are stranded abroad. But before you go giving Thailand grief about this, there are other countries which have similarly onerous rules regarding people movement. One example is Australia where not just citizens, but those on a resident visa, are prohibited from leaving. Aussies can return to Australia if they are outside the country but Australians and residents (including the tens of thousands of Thais living in Australia who have a residency visa) need to apply to the government if they wish to leave. And according to Thais on the local Australian Facebook groups it is said to be a convoluted process and it seems most applications are declined. Obviously visitors to Australia can leave any time (assuming they can get a seat on a flight out). My point is that it’s not just Thailand making things difficult.
In last week’s column I mentioned that Thais here in Kiwiland were less than impressed with the prices being asked for a one-way ticket home on a repatriation flight organised by the Thai embassy in Wellington. It seems that the outcry worked and I note that a posting from the embassy has announced the prices have been lowered.
From one of those awful Facebook groups where Thai women share photos, stories and experiences of dating white guys came a post this week from a tramp who is pursuing damages against a guy she spent time with some 5 years ago. She claims that she suffered a dislocated shoulder and while the details of just how that happened weren’t revealed, she is seeking 10 million baht in damages from the guy who she has named and shamed. A quick browse over past posts from the lady in question makes it seem like all is not well with her mentally – and I can see why the “man from Melbourne” would want to be as far away from her as he could. The worry in a place like Thailand is that police DO get involved in cases like this – and a situation could quickly spiral out of control. With many people not doing well financially, exaggerating an incident to extort money from a white guy might be hard for some tramps to resist. Take this as yet another indirect warning via my other half about getting involved with the wrong type of Thai woman.
Quote of the week comes from a friend of a friend, ”In Thailand it’s all short term thinking, that’s why you’ve never heard of a Thai philosopher.”
A Thai man with a foot fetish is arrested after stealing 126 pairs of shoes over 2 years.
The Bangkok Post reported that Thailand will reopen and allow inbound international travel from July 1st.
A backlash on social media forces major Thai ISP True to unblock PornHub.
A Brit who threw his Thai wife off a balcony is charged with attempted murder.
The curfew hours are reduced and the opening hours for venues extended.
Another mixed Thai / Farang family are being kept part by Thai bureaucracy.
I am a strong believer in personal freedoms and liberty, just as I am a very strong believer in self-responsibility. Do as you please so long as you do not infringe on the rights of others nor interfere with the enjoyment of their lives. And when you mess up – as we all do from time to time – take responsibility for it. With this philosophy it’s hard not to be disillusioned – or worse – by the over-reaction to Covid-19 here in New Zealand, and, based on what friends tell me, in Thailand too. We have not had a new case of Covid-19 here for ages and there is exactly one active case left in the entire country. We are basically free of it, yet many behave as if the world will end if they don’t abide by some of the crazy rules and restrictions imposed to stop the virus from spreading. Signs outside shops telling customers to maintain a 2 metre distance between one another are no longer necessary. Only allowing 100 customers in a store with a floor area the size of a rugby field is ridiculous. And making customers queue outside to enter said store with Winter just a day away is plain dumb. In Thailand I hear there is similar crap. There needs to be some serious pushback against some of these nonsense regulations. Granted, some were needed but now that things have passed, they need to be rescinded. I sent an email to my local member of parliament telling him how ridiculous this is getting – not that I expect anything will come of it, but it felt good hitting send all the same. Hardly anyone here is wearing a face-mask and fortunately it seems we haven’t totally lost our innate sensibility. I hope things aren’t too bad in your corner of the world.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : [email protected]