The Green Light Doesn’t Always Mean Go
Since bars were ordered closed in mid-March, bar owners have been waiting for word that they could reopen. This past week it was announced that from Wednesday, July 1st, no businesses were restricted from operating. What should have been good news wasn’t necessarily received that way. The response was lukewarm with many bar operators saying they have no plans to reopen any time soon.
Is saying businesses are not restricted from operating the same as saying all businesses can open? As one bar owner pointed out, it has not been explicitly stated that bars can open. At the same time most bars have taken the message to mean that they can. In typical Thai fashion, it’s as clear as mud.
Which bars will reopen this week? When will bars which don’t plan to reopen this week plan to reopen later? How many bars will never reopen?
Why open?, some bar owners said to me, by email. The problem, they tell me, is that there’s hardly anyone around.
Choosing not to open shouldn’t come as a surprise. Despite the green light, many bars will remain closed because there aren’t enough customers about to make it worth their while.
Two days before it was announced businesses would not be prevented from opening from July 1st, it was announced that when bars reopen they would have to follow 22 new rules, some of which are beyond onerous. Any bar which followed even half of these rules to the letter of the law would not be any fun.
But as onerous as some of these rules are, bar owners and customers needn’t despair. Thailand has a multitude of rules for everything, many of which are seldom enforced.
Probably these rules are more about appeasing the general populace than actually restricting what can and cannot happen in bars.
One of the rules requires bars to close by midnight. Bar owners anticipate that that is one rule which willbe enforced.
There has been little excitement online about the bars reopening. Customers and bar operators alike have been conspicuous by their silence. I expected excitement and anticipation. There has been neither.
As the weeks pass by it is becoming clear that Covid-19 is going to be around for some time and it is going to disrupt life for a long time to come. That is making it hard for people to get excited about, well, anything.
The general consensus is that when the naughty bars reopen there will be a short, sharp spike in trade as expats head out and pent up demand is satisfied. But then it is picked that trade will revert to early March levels again. And that’s a real worry.
If there is one thing bar owners have learned from Covid-19, it is that many bars cannot survive on expat trade alone. There aren’t enough expats to keep all the bars afloat.
Being allowed to open is great news, but what bar owners are really waiting for is flights to resume and visitors to return.
No-one has a clue when that will be.
It is only when international visitors return will most bars become viable again. Bars may have been given the green light, but the green light doesn’t always mean go.
Last week’s photo was taken from Emporium looking towards many of the large buildings and hotels on Sukhumvit soi 22 and the construction in the area that used to be Washington Square / will be the new Emisphere. This week’s photo was taken this week and kindly provided by a reader.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
2020 isn’t the year of travel.
I’ve come to the realization that visiting Thailand this year is a long shot. I’ve got a flight booked for late November along with hotels and AirBnBs, all of which were booked back in January before the shit hit the fan. I’m holding out for a miracle, but Thailand can’t let in millions of unchecked tourists. Sure, to block them will be expensive and the economy will be hit, but to let them in will very likely be even more expensive. Unless there is an advancement with testing, it’s not going to happen. I was hoping to use other South-east Asian countries as a backup, but I’m depressed about the chances of that now too. We’re likely looking at the second half of 2021 at the earliest. Who knows what the world will look like then.
Mid-November it is!
I think you got the mid-November trip to Thailand correct, but which year? Let’s go for mid-November, 2030. It is definitely years until we get to visit Thailand again. Note, the “s”, it is not singular!
Travel off the menu.
I think it is starting to hit home for most that international travel has changed. Until there is a vaccine and most people have taken it, what we have now is how things will be. There may be some local travel bubbles between neighbouring countries that are mostly clean, like New Zealand / Australia and to some extent inside the EU / EEC, but that’s it. Travelling through a hub such as Doha, Dubai or others is a dead idea now. I remember some weeks back that you noted some of the social distancing ideas were nonsensical, but the problem is that until we have a vaccine rolled out we are going to be dominated by three main themes:
– No amount of politicking or opinions will beat the simple fact that this virus is pesky and spreads in insidious ways we don’t fully understand. Those running around thinking they know better aren’t helping either.
– Until we have a vaccine we are going to be dictated to by the lowest common denominators; Sweden is excluded from most Nordic opening of borders as they have rampant spread. UK is not even talking about opening borders, etc.
– Intercontinental travel is off for an extended period of time.
Where the wealthy don’t go.
Not for the first time, the Thai government is talking up the idea of targeting those rolling in money as they seek to re-start tourism. But they don’t realise that wealthy people have no interest in Thailand. Wealthy people go to places that have excellent infrastructure, efficient and reliable service in every area, where they can feel safe and secure at all times. They go to places where respectable and educated people cater for their every whim. They go to places where drivers don’t threaten other drivers (which might be them) with guns and baseball bats because they might have hooted at them for crossing their path. They go to places where the lights don’t fail every time there’s a storm. They go to places that are clean, without hanging wires, potholes and litter everywhere. And they go to places that are at the very least as picturesque and often more so than what Thailand is, and which provide genuine value. So let them dream on.
Out and about on Sukhumvit this week.
I was out last night in soi 11 and the street was like a ghost town. Went to Oskar and it was full of hookers and no men! Us 3 old fellas were getting attention from a lot of young ladies. The barman said it has been like that every night. We moved to Hemingway’s to eat – and it was packed! They have been doing a good trade but empty by 11 PM. After that I popped in to Artbox and it was jumping! Stayed till midnight with many punters still there. Interesting mix with many (young) farangs and Thais and a great deal of working girls. There were a few from H2. Some I know said they know they probably wouldn’t get a customer but were bored sitting at home. They are still asking 3k. I tried to explain economics to them but it fell on deaf ears!
Covid-19 a boon for Pattaya.
I just came back from a lovely 5-day stay in Pattaya. On week-days it was like a ghost town, I was alone at the hotel pool all afternoon long. Come the weekend our hotel had 100% occupancy. Can Pattaya become a family-friendly town? Did I miss the bar scene, and the crazy Pattaya? Hell no, the beach was beautiful just like Pattaya from the ‘80s. Shopping at Terminal 21 was awesome, and the atmosphere in town was nice.
As per today’s opener, many gogo bars have stated that they will not open on July 1st, despite seemingly getting the green light. From Soi Cowboy, Kazy Kozy, Dollhouse, Baccara and Suzie Wong have all indicated they won’t open just yet. Many are 50/50.
From Nana Plaza there is no word from any venues yet apart from Billboard and Butterflies which are currently being spruced up and will open on July 7th.
Over in Patpong, Triple XXX Lounge in Patpong soi 2 is open. It was a steakhouse for a year or so in between Club Electric Blue closing and more recently opening as XXX Lounge so it has a restaurant licence. It’s open without dancers, with the lights on inside. Customers can order the likes of chicken wings and hot dogs. Temperature checking and contact tracing sign-in is required. There are a couple former gogo ladies on the premises, dressed in street attire. From this coming Wednesday there will be more ladies.
From the same group as XXX Lounge (Black Pagoda, Bar Bar and others), more of their bars in Patpong will open if business picks up.
Across the three major Bangkok bar areas there seems to be a lot of watching of what others are doing before committing to opening. On this note, there are restaurants that have chosen to remain closed throughout and have yet to reopen, such is the lack of footfall on lower Sukhumvit.
On Soi Nana, Stumble Inn opened for business this past Thursday, operating as a restaurant, from midday until midnight. Live music cannot be played and the working girls aren’t doing their thing. There are measures in place regarding capacity, with customers asked to sign in or check in online with the tracing app. They are also doing temperature checks on the door. Staff are wearing facemasks. It must all feel rather odd, but at the end of the day the reopening of Stumble Inn is a positive for Soi Nana and bars reopening after such a long period almost feels like the return of an old friend.
Diagonally opposite Stumble Inn, Hooters had already opened but word is it’s doing very little trade as it the case with pretty much all venues on Soi Nana which have reopened – which begs the question, how long can they keep this up. It should be noted that the Nana Hotel remains closed at this stage, as do most other hotels.
It has been speculated that part of the reason Artbox (Chuwit Garden, next to Sukhumvit soi 10) is doing so well, especially after 9:00 PM, is because there are many girls working the space.
Something positive from Sukhumvit this week with word that the Biergarten will reopen very soon. New fridges were being moved in this week and so I think we can put the latest round of rumours about the Biergarten closing to bed.
But it’s not all good news from that soi with some of the bars in the new complex on Sukhumvit 7 putting for sale notices up. You’ve got to feel sorry for them, especially those which were forced out of Queen’s Park Plaza on Sukhumvit soi 22, went through the expense of setting up in the new bar complex on soi 7 which had little time to gain traction and then everything came crumbling down with Covid-19.
Down in Pattaya, word is that most gogo bars and nightclubs won’t be opening this week. The consensus is that most bar operators don’t think they will make money until flights resume and visitors start coming back.
In Pattaya’s largest bar group, Night Wish, which totally dominates soi 6, some bars will open on July 1st and some will wait until July 8th. Seven bars will open to start with: Wrath, Toy Box, Pussy Club, Mods Bar, Blue Bar, Kawaii Bar and Exotica Bar. At this stage it is not known when all 29 of the Night Wish Group’s bars will open.
Next Sunday and Monday – July 5th and 6th – are Buddhist days and alcohol cannot be sold. July 7th is a substitution day for Songkran, all of which means next weekend is a long weekend and two of the four days will be alcohol-free.
Many expat pubs have opened over the past couple of weeks and it’s been a real mixed bag. Some have been doing a roaring trade while others have been flat. Amongst the winners doing well is The Royal Oak in Sukhumvit soi 33/1. But success at this time is a double-edged sword and not without its headaches. Playing on the manager’s mind is social distancing. What are staff to do with the punters who have abandoned any pretence whatsoever of social distancing? Businesses are fighting for every customer and business owners don’t wish to do anything which cause them to upset or worse still, customers. The worry is that any business not seen to be managing social distancing could receive a visit from the boys in brown. When it comes to enforcing social distancing rules, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
The much anticipated Red Lion on Sukhumvit soi 13 will open on July 1.
A reader strolled down Patpong 1 for the first time in months and described it as surreal. He had been to Shenanigans on the night it reopened and the walk towards Silom Road on Patpong soi 1 was eerie in a Patpong with the soi itself very much in darkness and nothing open at all.
I have always extended an invitation to bar owners, restaurant owners and the owners of any business offering services of interest to readers to get in touch and let me know what’s going on. It’s a great way to get the word out there. I can’t mention your venue and anything going on if I don’t know about it.
Covid-19 has not put a stop to police hassling foreigners on Sukhumvit with reports that the police are out and about and as per usual, the target is foreigners. It’s the same area as in the past, with just east of the Asoke intersection being the prime spot. Reports reached me this week of both an official police checkpoint stopping all foreigners (and letting all Thais through) as well as the old two officers on a bike stopping foreigners in the area. Foreigners who fit a certain profile and carrying a bag are those most likely to be stopped. I am also told that the police have stopped foreigners walking on that stretch of Sukhumvit without wearing a mask and instructing them to wear one. It never ends.
It’s one thing not being able to holiday in Thailand at this time, but spare a thought for those in a relationship with a Thai woman who are outside the country and who now effectively find themselves in a long-distance relationship. This is something of a problem because Thais don’t do long-distance relationships well – and I’ll stick my neck out here and say that probably applies even to some who are married, especially if she is younger – say under 35. I imagine that there will be some married couples who had a perfectly good relationship prior to Covid-19, who are now separated by geography and for whom their relationship falls apart because one or both get up to no good while apart. Relationships that were already teetering may well be pushed over the edge and like I say, the closure of borders due to Covid-19 will be a curse for some otherwise perfectly healthy relationships.
With Covid-19 closing borders many of us cannot visit Thailand. At the same time, if you are a regular visitor and not been able to visit, have you calculated what you might have gained / saved from it? Due to Covid-19, it looks like it will be at least two trips to Thailand I won’t be taking this year – and that means a total saving of $NZ 13,000 (around $NZ 6,500 per trip). And as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, not being able to visit Thailand has been the shot in the arm I needed to travel around parts of my own country that I have long been keen to see.
And for those of you who are in Thailand at this time, there is some obvious upside too. In recent years some tourist attractions have become so busy with throngs of visitors that they just aren’t that enjoyable to visit. The Grand Palace in Bangkok is a prime example. Massive queues wait to enter and once inside what should be a quiet, peaceful place is over-crowded and anything but tranquil. Ditto for some other popular temples in Bangkok like Wat Po, the Marble Temple etc. If you’re an expat or one of the few visitors who has remained in Thailand, this might just be the very best time to visit or revisit your favourite temples and other tourist attractions as they reopen. And across the border in Cambodia, now would be a fantastic time to visit Angkor Wat. I haven’t been since 2011 – and already then it was getting busy in parts. The difference between my first visit in 2001 and my second in 2011 was night and day with 2001 so much better because it felt like we almost had it to ourselves. Make the most of this opportunity!
Quote of the week comes from an article in the Bangkok Post this week and is a hoot, “The country’s infamous “soapies” (a massage parlor, of sorts) can re-open on 1 July on condition that customers and staff wear face masks and observe social distancing, except during bathing time.”
Reader’s story of the week is from Bangkok Byron, “Bargirl or Chimera“.
Nightspots cry foul at the lengthy list of conditions they will have to comply with when they reopen.
Durians from Thailand trigger the evacuation of a post office in Germany.
Scala in Siam Square will close with goodbye events to be held between July 3rd – 5th.
All businesses in Thailand which had been ordered closed can reopen from July 1.
Residents of Lopburi are living in fear as gangs of monkeys roam the city looking for food.
Thailand is looking at low-risk countries to open travel bubbles with.
A Dane wins a law suit against his Thai wife for not property deemed shared assets.
There has been a surge in Chinese applying for a Thai Elite card which allows hassle-free long-stays in the country.
Khao San Road is ready to reopen after a major revamp.
Immigration has put the TM30 on to the back burner.
With travel to Thailand not looking likely any time soon, assuming your income hasn’t been hit, what are you doing with the extra money that you would have spent on that Thailand trip? Here in New Zealand many people are apparently spending on their house, making it more comfortable in anticipation of travelling less and spending more time at home. I’ve invested some money in some cold-weather gear as I plan a winter break as I have all but given up on getting back to Thailand this year. What about you? Have you dropped any money on any new toys or the like now that your Thailand plans don’t look like happening any time soon.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org