Bangkok Post 22.08.2010
Writer: Maxmilian Wechsler
One of Bangkok’s most notorious nightspots, Nana Plaza on Sukhumvit Soi 4, is getting a facelift. Many of the mostly foreign customers who frequent Nana Plaza have been surprised to find that all the beer bars on the ground floor in the middle of the complex have been demolished. The open area in the centre of the three-storey complex is now a construction site, and the hundreds of bar girls and ladyboys who work in Nana Plaza have to skirt around bags of cement and building material to get to the many go-go bars and other businesses that were set up there in the early 1990s. The square, where construction work has been going on for a few weeks, is surrounded by three-storey buildings housing dozens of entertainment venues, including go-go and ladyboy bars.
A tall foreigner, who some of the bar girls called ”boss”, has been directing workers at the construction site. He was reluctant to talk, as was a Thai manager of the construction firm doing the work. But according to a source, the demolition of the beer bars at Nana Plaza was prompted by a visit by officials from the Klong Toey district office.
”After the Santika pub fire on New Year’s Eve in 2008 that resulted in many deaths and injuries, officials came to the plaza to check safety issues such as fire exits. ”They want to prevent a similar accident happening here,” said the source. ”They expressed concern about the fire hazard caused by those beer bars because they were blocking the way for fire trucks to reach any of the buildings behind them. ”If fire broke out at Nana Plaza it would cause another tragedy, so the officials ordered that those beer bars be torn down.” When the ”boss” was asked if the reason for the facelift was due to safety concerns by local authorities, he simply answered: ”Maybe. But there are also other reasons.” Ms Pen, a bartender at Nana Plaza who has worked there for many years, said the square in the centre of the complex was originally a car park, but someone decided to open a small bar and more were added later on.
”Many foreigners have complained for years that Nana Plaza is a fire trap, posing a danger to hundreds of customers and employees alike, because there is only one way to escape _ and that is through the narrow entrance from Soi 4,” she said. The demolition of the beer bars and the reconstruction work started at the end of last month and should be finished within two months. She said the new set-up will also feature live music and a dance floor. ”One construction worker told me that the new chairs, tables and other fittings are designed to be easily removed after closing time or during an emergency.
”The new beer bars being built there will be covered by a high roof, so that even a large fire truck will be able to drive under it.” However, few patrons are convinced the renovations will make the place any safer if fire breaks out. ”The beer bars which are under construction won’t solve this problem,” said a regular foreign customer who thought the whole thing was a gimmick. He prefers to sit and drink close to the entrance to Nana Plaza instead of at outlets on the second or third floor because of concerns about a fire. Several talkative bar girls said they were also concerned about the fire hazard issue. ”We have to wait and see how safer the new beer bars at the square are going to be than those previous ones,” said one bar girl.