It’s Always About The Tea Money

Published on 1st July 2015 by Stickboy BKK

Having just read the Bloomberg bollocks syndicated by the Bangkok Post and some of the comments that have followed, such as this one, it is time to knock these tea money tales on the head.

Every time a story crops up involving the police or army and the nightlife industry it’s ALWAYS about the tea money to most people when they make a comment on any given story or update, when in reality extra donations seldom get mentioned by the boys in brown or green when dealing with venues and businesses in the popular farrang bar areas on a day to day basis.

Monthly fees are negotiated when the owner takes over and paid accordingly on the agreed date or dates of the month.

Now unless someone is doing something wrong and get caught with their pants down then a contribution may soften the punishment, which is how the system works at any level of illegal activity in any business across the city and not unique to the nightlife sector.

(I’m not counting the copyright cops and the like here, only the people owners and managers deal with on a regular basis)

I’ve sat here and racked my brain and can’t come up with one instance where I’ve heard someone has just shown up out the blue at a pub, club, go-go bar or late night street bar demanding an extra payment let alone inform the owner of an increase in monthly dues.

On the other hand I have heard of monthly payments being reduced when those new to the game have been played in the initial negotiations and as soon as they find their feet come to realise they are paying over the odds and ask for a reduction, which is given with a shake of the hand and a smile.

tea money tales

The Bloomberg article is based on one anonymous street bar owner saying payoffs have risen 75% since the military took control. It doesn’t even mention which of the redlight areas the bar is based but leads the reader to believe the go-go bar it sits alongside is illegal. Now, unless the mobile bar was set up on Sukhumvit Soi 23 near the one and only go-go bar I know of in the city without a license to run such as business then suggesting it is illegal due to prostitution couldn’t be further from the truth as go-go bars are licensed and legal.

Of course, what goes on in some, such as topless or naked dancing, is against the law but that is certainly not the case in the majority of bars in 2015. Those days are long gone and way before May 2014 too may I add. Just take a walk around Nana Plaza’s 20-odd bars and tell me how many have dancers showing? On any given night it isn’t that many because Lumpini come down hard on those that do flaunt the rules. Stick your head in over 75% of Soi Cowboy go-go bars and you’ll see dancers in skimpy outfits covering their modesty. Nudity let alone sex in go-go’s isn’t the norm.

sukhumvit street bar

As for the lady having to make three payments a night to be able to run her illegal bar business lets remove the “fixer” from the equation as this is misleading. The “fixer” isn’t fixing anything, he is the guy paid a few hundred baht a day to haul the mobile bar along with the tables and chairs in and out of storage which is included in his fee. One of the payments is rent, yes street bars pay rent. And then we come to the “bribe”, a term I’ve never heard anyone use, that costs what? 3-4,000 baht a month for a late night Sukhumvit bar. A breakdown of monies incurred by a street bar that was up for sale are listed here as a quick reference.

When the military hit all the massage shops around Sukhumvit 22, 24 and 33 in late November last year and shut them down for 24 hours out of nowhere, the majority online were shouting loud it was all about the money. It had nothing to do with money and the average 20,000 baht a month contribution made by the happy ending shops remained unchanged as it did in February when officers from Thonglor hit the same shops ordering early closures. No increases or extra envelopes were asked for. Again, the tea money touts were in full voice when it simply wasn’t what the crackdown was about.

massgae shops bangkok

Bars in and around Nana that I know of pay from 7-12k a month and they all close on time. Some bigger bars will perhaps pay a bit more. Late night venues that stay open til the sun comes up pay big bucks that run to seven figures a month for some. It is that type of venue, and only that type that I know of that contribute serious cash to the pension fund.

Go-go bars pay varying amounts depending on which area but lets take a public figure of 45,000 baht a month for a ground floor Nana Plaza bar that was on the market until recently and has since been bought over that is down as “security” in the list of expenses. A fairly typical figure I have heard from all three popular nightlife areas, although, some will no doubt pay more and others less.

If payments, bribes, tea money, call it what you will, had really risen by 75% since the military took control as the article claims, I’d have heard about it long before now as there is one thing about bar managers you can always count on as a sure thing and that is they love nothing better than a right good moan.

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