The problems and challenges facing Professional Bar owners in Pattaya are a major test of sweat, blood and tears.
Pattaya Thailand, once a bustling tourism centre with arrivals figures that were the envy of many Countries around the world, with world class hotels, swanky shopping malls, vast attractions in addition to its more notorious beer bars and the GoGo establishment on Walking Street, offered something for a board cross section of people from around the world. The once vibrant city is now virtually shut down with all bars, restaurant, hotels etc shut down and boarded up. Some restrictions will be slowly lifted soon but it will be a long and challenging journey to see this city and others like it around the world, once again shine and fill with happy visitors.
Since the R&R from the Vietnam War, westerners have been visiting and many stayed enjoying the great atmosphere, agreeable climate and being surrounded by the smiling faces of their Thai hosts. Many have stayed and made Thailand their home, opening businesses, marrying and raising families. For many the lure of running a bar with virtually inexhaustible supply of thirsty clients and employing bubbly young ladies to entice them onto the threshold was a dream. It is estimated that there were more than 3,000 bars in Pattaya and for many amateurs the dream soon ended in misery.
Others took a much more professional view and I am delighted that one such professional has opened up to to discuss the challenges that now lay ahead.
Phil first came to Thailand in 1996 gaining valuable work experience employed in the bar scene before breaking out in 2016 to open Le Pub. This is a friendly expat Pub located on Soi Diamond very close to the famous (infamous) Walking Street. Phil is a true landlord who runs a tight and professional ship, he greats each patron as he enters and knows everyone by name. The bar is relaxed, informal and offers high quality imbibement at sensible prices. Recently Phil reached out on Facebook, opening up on his plight and offering suggestions. I would like to forward this to all who are interested in the trials and tribulations of professional bar owners such as Phil,(a.k.a.MisterEgg) in Pattaya:-
“The government has announced a further extension of one month to the emergency lockdown measures. That means that the curfew is in place for another month. What this means for the bar is that these measures have to be met before I can open:
1: Easing of curfew
2: Reinstating sales of alcohol (provincial)
3: Easing of social distancing regulations
I have then heard that all entertainment venues will have to apply to the government to reopen.These are the measures to take to be able to open are just for JUST FOR EXPATS. Then, travel restrictions including lifting bans on foreigners traveling into the country have to be lifted before any sort of tourism can resume.
That, in black and white, is what I am facing before I can begin to see any sort of return to profitability for the business.
It’s a long road ahead.
I have a very good landlord, the best. He is giving me a rent holiday whilst I am closed. But I have six staff staying in the bar which incurs electric and water costs. I’m providing food for them, and I’ve been helped by some of my regular customers, for which we are all so grateful. Thank you.
I also have to pay legal fees such as social fund and tax, I’ve been told if I don’t pay some sort of income tax I won’t get my visa and work permit on renewal.
A month ago, I took the decision that if I wasn’t open by June 1st I would turn off the water and electric in the bar and the staff would have to return to their family homes. I can see that date coming around and I’ll be in the same position as I am today.
I have stayed away from offering any opinion on all of this and just done what the government has told us. Together, we have got the numbers of new cases of the virus down to single figures nationally and zero for days in Chonburi province. But now I have to say that unless there is some sort of help from government to help us through the months and months I fear we must close, then there is just no point in me trying to keep the business going.
Every day, I walk past rows upon rows of people waiting in line for charitable handouts of food and water from individuals and businesses. Thai people hungry.
I have the appropriate visa and work permit, my company registers staff and pays social fund every month. My company pays tax every year on profits. The government seems happy to sacrifice the tourism industry to keep the numbers low. Some of my staff have received the emergency handout to casual workers. Some have received some of their salaries paid by the government. Some social fund payments have been frozen.
I am asking the government to consider the following.
* Consider entertainment venues with outdoor seating to open up to the curfew hours, if social distancing and hygiene standards are observed. (This is being considered in other countries)
* Defer all payments for entertainment licenses till we are open fully.
* If entertainment venues open without music, Government work with music licensees to offer refunds or discounts on future licenses.
* Consider government backed loans to registered businesses in the tourism/ entertainment sector to help is through the lockdown
* Local government relax payments of signage tax
If the restrictions don’t ease soon and we can begin the road to opening that I have outlined above, I will have to conclude that I will be just throwing good money away.
I receive messages every day from customers old and new, many in Pattaya now, telling me that they can’t wait to get back to Thailand, come party in Pattaya and even come to my bar. I hope to be able to welcome them.
But, hope for this business and the nightlife in Pattaya is running out.”
You may either love, hate or just accept the nightlife in Pattaya. Whilst it is an integral part of the ‘charm’ of the resort, many feel that a lot should/could change if it is to continue, and the virus is providing the impetus for this. However, a few bars have already been providing higher cleanliness for their customers and LePub has always been one of the leaders.
It is not easy for Phil and his colleagues and, to be honest there remains very little light at the end of this long tunnel.
This article is not meant as a plea or as a judgement, purely the words from the heart of a truly professional bar owner in Pattaya. Phil I know that your many regular customers are rooting for you, for many there is not a lot they can do as they are stuck in their respective shutdowns, but you are not alone!
Kim Waddoup enjoyed a lifetime in the tourism business and is an active ‘Silver-Ager” living in Thailand. He writes for his age group with high varied articles covering subjects relevant to retirees living in, or visiting Thailand.
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