Last Orders Have Been Called At Sukhumvit Street Bars

Published on 7th September 2014 by Stickboy BKK

I have been hearing the same old story for almost two years now. The late night street bars on Sukhumvit are being shut down. The closest they have come has been the odd week where the cops have told them they can’t open as some behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing goes on. As recently as last week this happened when they couldn’t open for 8 days.

Lights off at 3am, music turned down or off, 5am closing and the newest of all, after 3am they can’t have beer bottles on the tables, glasses only. The list of rules and restrictions is always in flux but the owners carry on as they are pulling in decent money in relation to their outlay. Depending on location, monthly “rent” for a street bar ranges from 3,000 to 8,000 baht. For some this is one nights takings. Throw in barfines – yeah, some of these cheeky bastards charge customers 500 baht for hooking up with freelancers sat at their bars – and the money starts adding up to a tidy sum. More so now that pubs and clubs around Bangkok are all closing at 2am.

Last night from Soi 15 all the way along to Soi 3 was packed at 3am. Almost every bar was full to bursting. The owners grinning like Cheshire cats as the drinks kept flowing despite the rain. Happy days.

street bar near soi 133am just along from Soi 13

When I asked about the rumoured shutdown they were adamant everything was fine as they had been to a meeting last week at Lumpini police station and as far as they were concerned, it was business as usual. I asked had they seen any army around. Yup, they had done a drive-by on Friday night but other than that, nothing. None of the three street bar owners I know and spoke with last night had heard of any rumours regarding an imminent crackdown by the military over the course of the next few days.

The same was true of two bar managers who were rightly bitching and moaning about how they were losing money with 2am closing yet these cowboys were openly selling booze until sunrise.

It seems I was the only person who’d heard this story, and understandably no one believed me when I said that I’d been told their days are numbered.

no more bottles after 3amNo bottles after 3am

Now I don’t have any “special friends” or “connections”. The only people I know in high places are mates who live in high rise condos. The people I speak with who share stories / gossip are all people I met through work and that includes bar and club security. Many of the doormen I know and worked with have a military background which is where this story originates.

For the sake of the story, we’ll call my mate Sgt. Somchai. He’s in his mid 30s and been in the army since his late teens. He no longer works the doors full time due to his army commitments but he still does the odd shift and has some type of management role over the guys working in about a dozen lower Sukhumvit venues.

He messaged me the info I shared on Twitter yesterday which was brief and a little vague. Luckily I bumped into him last night and got a chance to chat for 5 minutes to clarify what was going on.

4am outside McDonaldss at Sukhumvit Soi 5

Four units, one of which he is the CO, have been tasked with the job of keeping things in check from Soi 1 to Asoke. Two teams on either side of Sukhumvit will make sure the t-shirt and trinket stalls are not setting up until 6pm. He explained this is job #1, which is why they weren’t out last night dealing with the street bars. He again said this will happen in the next 3 or 4 days but he couldn’t be more specific. He also made clear that this is not a temporary measure. Once gone, like the VW vans on Soi 11, they won’t be coming back.

So it looks like last orders have been called on the Sukhumvit street bars and the plans for cleaning up the area won’t stop there according to Sgt. Somchai. He said now that Soi 11 has been cleared, the bars / clubs are all closing at their official time, tackling the day time traders is underway, street bars in the coming week and then the Sukhumvit “taxi mafia”, his words, not mine, are the next on the hit list.

He didn’t elaborate further on the taxi crackdown other than to say several crews had been taken to a military base on Friday night and spoken to for an hour. He didn’t go into details of what was said at the meeting and I didn’t ask as I’m not really interested in the story but the taxi guys were all in their usual spots last night.

Will the street bars get lucky and pull another rabbit out the hat? Is Sgt. Somchai talking out his ass? Lets wait and see what the week ahead brings.

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