Pattaya revives plan to remove Walking Street disorderly neon signs

This Pattaya Mail file photo shows what Walking Street looked like pre-pandemic with an array of neon signs of all shapes and sizes protruding into the street.

Five years after city hall first threatened to require Walking Street bars and restaurants to change all their neon signs into Japanese-style marquees, Pattaya officials again are talking downsizing.

Deputy Mayor Manote Nongyai on Aug. 26 chaired a meeting with Walking Street business owners about the change in signage, which city hall has complained about for years, saying low-hanging signs pose obstacles for fire trucks and emergency vehicles.

The city periodically has removed signs and forced others to be raised, but no such action has taken place since 2018, due mostly to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 100 business owners filed complaints with city hall Aug. 1, 2017 when then-Deputy Mayor Apichart Virapal signed an order demanding that all retail and advertising signs found to be “non-standard” or illegally erected be removed within weeks, particularly those over public property and on rooftops.

Since the pandemic hit, most of the nightlife venues have closed and their neon signs removed, but there are still many disorderly signs and billboards that need tidying up.

A month later, the city unveiled an artist’s rendering of how authorities envision the nightlife strip could look. The rendering showed all of Walking Street’s signs reduced to a vertical, uniform size protruding only slightly from each shophouse, as they do in nightlife sections of Tokyo, Seoul and Phnom Penh.

In September 2017, operators agreed to rework their signature neon signs, but not until city hall fixed the overhead wiring. That, of course, took five years. But, as of this month, overhead wiring has been buried and Walking Street has been repaved. So business owners are out of excuses.

The vertical sign idea is now back in play, with Manote saying the plan is to have signs protrude no more than 50 centimeters into the street with their bottom at least eight meters off the ground.

Before the new signage is required, however, Pattaya will begin checking the height of existing signs and removing those found to be too low.

Naris Petcharat (center) president of the Walking Street community together with business owners attended a city hall meeting to discuss measures to tidy up Walking Street including regulating the size of neon sign boards.