As we wave goodbye to the unnamed alley on Sukhumvit Soi 11 that became a Bangkok nightlife landmark, we look at the fate of its businesses. 

As of Mar 31, the little sub-soi on Sukhumvit Soi 11 where some 10 bars and restaurants have formed a popular mini nightlife hub will be cleared to make room for a new development, details of which are still uncertain. Much to the disappointment of both the venue owners, some of whom have been there for more than 30 years, and Bangkok’s nightlife crowd, the soi follows a spate of laid-back, pocket-friendly street-side bars and food places swept aside in central areas. Here, BK looks at the fate of each business in the soi, as well as the other neighborhoods primed for development. 

Cheap Charlie’s

Status: Still looking for a new home

Loved by locals and tourists alike, Satit Budkajang’s tiny bar brimming with haberdashery has been peddling some of Sukhumvit’s cheapest beers for 35 years. It’s also singlehandedly responsible for much of Soi 11’s popularity, turning the area into many people’s de facto after-work drinking hangout. Satit officially shuts up shop on Mar 31, and for now remains unsure whether he’ll open another Cheap Charlie’s in Bangkok or move the bar’s signature decor down to his Cheap Charlie’s resort in Hua Hin. “The customers are very sad about this,” says Satit. “A lot of them are tourists who travel here and always drink at Cheap Charlie’s.” Read the full interview and watch our video below. 

Charley Brown’s

Status: Moving to Sukhumvit Soi 19

Soi 11’s veteran Mexican restaurant (it opened back in 2004) is lucky enough to have already found a bigger, better spot over on Sukhumvit Soi 19 at The iCheck Inn Hotel, where they’ve been open since Mar 24. “Soi 11 has become a destination in itself and we would get a lot of walk-ins,” says Dave Bell, the partner manager. “So we are going to have to promote our new place a bit more." For him, the move away from Soi 11 also comes at a convenient time. “A bar around the corner on Soi 11 recently had their rent tripled when the new contract came out,” he continues. “The landlord doesn’t care if you’re going to stay or leave.”

 

The Alchemist Bar

Status: Permanently closed

Another bar that decided to close early, the Alchemist shut its doors on Dec 31, 2016. The space was originally a tailor shop for 30 years and belonged to Alchemist co-owner Saloni Jirathaneswongse’s father-in-law. Saloni transformed it into a bar five years ago. “It wasn’t a surprise to us, we actually expected it to happen sooner,” says Saloni. Together with her business partner Tapanee Manaves, she reveals they have no plan to open somewhere new anytime soon. “The closure is very sad because that space in Soi 11 has a lot of character. But there’s not much we can do about it,” says Saloni.

 

Snapper

Status: Still looking for a new home

New Zealand-style fish and chips specialist Snapper was probably the first bar on the block to shut up shop once the news broke that the area was being redeveloped, following a closing party in mid-Sep 2016. According to Craig McLean, the owner, “our lease ended up being too short to recover from our original investment,” but they would also like to open up again some place new. “We are still looking for an appropriate place,” he says. “Soi 11 had its day, I suppose.” You can still get the fish and chips at McLean's other restaurant, Kai, on Sathorn Soi 12. 

 

Tapas Cafe

Status: Focusing on branch in Silom 

When this restaurant first opened, it filled a much-needed 

authentic-tapas hole in the Bangkok dining scene, bringing delicious Spanish cuisine to us in a casual setting. The owner, Guy Jackson, says that the closure comes as “no surprise” considering Bangkok’s rapid development over the past few years and the fact that Soi 11 is not exactly an aesthetic part of town. “If there’s nothing protecting, say, the 100-year-old house that used to be Hemingway’s, then who would protect this run-down street?” he says. “I think of it as a unique cultural hub, but that doesn’t seem to be valuable enough to be protected.” 

 

Stash Bar

Status: Still looking for a new home

Those who have spent a night partying on Soi 11 will have witnessed the breakdancers that take to the street almost every weekend, courtesy of this casual dive bar at the beginning of the sub-soi. “We’ve been here for four years,” says business partner Patrick Laurent. “We still haven’t found a new place to relocate to, meaning for now we might have to just close down.” Despite that, Laurent believes it’s the right of the landlords to make this decision. When asked what he loves about Soi 11, he points out the casualness of the soi, something increasingly hard to find amid a Bangkok nightlife scene that has seen the arrival of many more classy clubs and bars. “It’s been a great run and I’m sad to see it go”.  


BK Asks

Cheap Charlie’s Satit Budkajang discusses the 35-year history of his bar and what happens next

How did it all start?

My older brother, Charlie, opened the bar and then he passed away so I took over it until today.

Are you planning to move anywhere?

I am looking for a new location but it is very difficult. I want to remain in Soi 11, but I haven’t found anything yet. I also have a resort in Hua Hin, also called Cheap Charlie’s. I will probably just open a bar there.

Where did you get all the decoration for your bar from?

A lot of it is actually gifts from our customers.

Tell us how you came to have the model train running overhead.

I love trains, so I wanted to have one running around my bar. I went and bought a set and let it run around. Sometimes when the battery runs out or when I don’t turn it on, the customers will ask about it, so I have to go and get new batteries.

Are you planning to bring all these decorations with you when you close?

Yes, we are keeping every single thing. You can’t buy history like this, and we’re not looking to sell anything. When we open a new Cheap Charlie’s, we will try to make it as identical to the old one as possible.