As Thailand nears six months since shutting its borders to foreign tourists, owners of struggling Pattaya bars and pubs say they don’t know how much longer they can hold out.
Already two-thirds of Walking Street’s go-go bars remained closed, even though they were given permission to reopen July 1. There simply aren’t enough customers to offset the costs of staff, utilities, rent and alcohol.
The signs of economic collapse are evident across the city, with two of every three storefronts in South Pattaya closed either temporarily or forever. Even the businesses least vulnerable to hard times – 7-Elevens and McDonald’s restaurants – have closed, allowing homeless people to take over their properties.
Wittawat Kluasuan, head security guard at the Kink go-go bar on Soi LK Metro said business is just a shadow of pre-pandemic times. The owner reopened, however, to take care of employees. But it’s unknown how long it can stay open.
Kink actually is doing better than most, drawing a good weekend crowd of expat men for its racy upstairs shows. Walking Street’s Pin-Up and Windmill Club also has had full houses on Fridays and Saturdays with relatively decent crowds other nights. But at the same time, other bars, such as Bliss and Dolls, have only one or two customers in the seats.
There’re simply not enough local expats or visiting Bangkokians to support more than a few bars, and the money is going to those offering either the best lineup of entertainers (Pin-Up) or most raunch (Windmill and Kink).
Amporn Kaewsang, a Walking Street bar owner, is urging the government to lift the legal requirement that bars close and end alcohol sales at midnight, arguing it will help operators.
But Pattaya police – despite claims by police chief Pol. Col. Khemmarin Pissamai to be enforcing the government’s list of 21 disease-control measures – already are letting bars stay open until 2 a.m. and ignoring nearly all of the 21 items, so it’s unclear how changing the wording of the law would change the reality on the ground.