A Charoen Krung establishment that fused food and live music while showcasing gentrification done right is calling it quits.
Nearly four years after it was transformed from an old shophouse into a destination for jazz loyalists, FooJohn Building has ceased operations after its business was killed off by the pandemic.
A traditional restaurant on the ground floor, FooJohn packed crowds into its upstairs space, where diners caroused elbow-to-elbow in reach of quality bands playing music from funk and soul to Latin jazz and blues. FooJohn closed mid-March when the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand began to peak with daily confirmed infections exceeding 100.
Romain Dupuy, one of its partners, also blamed “the total lack of support from the government” in the form of loan relief or payroll support. He said they would consider selling the business in the future.
“We were caught between a rock and a hard place. The sad part is that we were coming back really strong,” Dupuy told Coconuts Bangkok, saying that the venue was about to regain its financial status, just when it was hit even harder by the pandemic and lockdown measures.
Supattra “Jum” Vimonsuknopparat, another owner who once ran the storied Rain Dogs, said they were left with no choice.
“We feel as if we’re trapped, and we don’t see any lights at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
In late 2016, the restaurant opened in the distinctive FooJohn Building, whose longtime family owners remained involved. Its architectural character and structure were left intact, and the neighborhood’s history incorporated into the design.
Though FooJohn has not welcomed customers since March 17, she said that the ownership team had used their own funds to pay all nine staff members through the end of April. While some could get small checks from social security, others were not entitled because they’re not in the system.
“They are my family and I feel very sad with their struggle, I am still engaging and keeping in touch with them,” Jum said.
Dining inside restaurants has been allowed since May 3, so long as venues meet social-distancing guidelines, including separating tables by at least 1.5 meters. Live entertainment, on-site alcohol consumption and all bars remain prohibited; leaving FooJohn, despite achieving notoriety as a jazz club, without a leg to stand on.
Dupuy said they hoped to host a final goodbye event when the rules would permit it.
FooJohn joins a number of restaurants throughout the capital to announce they will close or shift to delivery only.
Jum said anyone interested in taking over the building or hiring their staff can reach out to email@example.com
Additional reporting Todd Ruiz