What we lost in 2021, Bangkok edition

Backstage Bar, Bangkok Screening Room, Thaisho, Bo.lan. Photos courtesy.
Backstage Bar, Bangkok Screening Room, Thaisho, Bo.lan. Photos courtesy.

You were another big, dumb, and tough year, 2021.

Tough for everyone, and especially those making a living at places where people gather to dine, dance, drink, and the like. 

From the vanguard of Thai fine dining and hidden bars to an earnest little indie movie house and historic movie palace, Bangkok suffered some deep losses as debts piled up and hard calls were made.

It was the same story told time and again, people pushed to their limits until they broke – and often bitter over the government’s failure to provide any relief.

Here, let us remember those places that are forever gone and will be dearly missed – including the countless others that went unreported.

Bo.Lan

A file photo of chefs Duanporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava and Dylan Jones of Bo.lan. Photo: Bo.lan / Courtesy

Among the businesses folding in May was a trailblazer of Bangkok’s fine-dining scene, Bo.lan. After 13 years, chefs Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan Jones announced they were closing their pioneering restaurant, blaming the government’s blanket ban on dining-in. 

The “utter lack of financial and political support for small business owners (and in particular our hospitality industry) has certainly contributed to our decision to call it a day,” Bo and Dylan wrote in a statement back in May. 

Prime Minister “Prayuth Chan-ocha and his comrades’ continual displays of nepotism and cronyism show how out of touch they are with the realities on the ground and how absurdly unprepared they were to handle this current COVID-19 wave,” Dylan later wrote in an unsparing op-ed.

Bangkok Screening Room

Photo: Bangkok Screening Room

After Lido got a new owner and the curtains closed on Scala, another loss struck cinephiles when the capital’s go-to home for indie movies in Sala Daeng took a bow after four years of screening movies not found anywhere else. 

Owner Sarinya Manamuti said that with their lease ending in March, the founders decided not to renew it given the impossible financial situation created by the pandemic. “We’ve exhausted all our options,” she said in an interview.

But not all was lost for fans: The venue has been taken over by the Documentary Club, which turned it into Doc Club & Pub

Backstage Bar

Photo: Backstage Cocktail Bar / Facebook

For the past six years, this theater-themed cocktail bar was one of the exciting spots in Thonglor contributing to the cocktail scene with tasty classics, signatures and custom pours alike. Despite the gradual easing of alcohol restrictions in late 2021, the founders of the Broadway-burlesque space broke the bad news that it wouldn’t return for the third act.

Kram

Photo: Kram Cafe & Thai Kitchen / Facebook

Best remembered as a place to hang out with friends over beers and a few classic Thai dishes, the garden home sitting up Soi Sukhumvit 39 bid goodbye to diners in late May after seven years of operation. 

Thaisho yadong bar

Photo: Thaisho / Facebook

Located near BTS Ari in a two-story shophouse, the eclectic bar dedicated to hardcore, herb-infused Thai moonshines was tragically short-lived. Amid the third-wave outbreak of COVID-19 in April, the team behind it announced that they “cannot adapt anymore,” citing a lack of government support

Find the Photo Booth

Photo: Find the Photo Booth / Facebook

Three years serving cocktails from a secret location (behind a photo booth, we can finally tell you) came to an end for Soi Sukhumvit 11’s Find the Photo Booth. Popular for its creativity on both sides of the bar, the team behind it hopes to find a way forward and was last seen looking for a new location to “relaunch” in the future.

Soul Food Mahanakorn

Photo: Soul Food Mahanakorn

A Thonglor diner known for potent cocktails and top-notch, street food-inspired recipes was forced shut forever, with its owner blaming lockdown measures preventing the sale of alcohol. Months after celebrating his restaurant’s 10th anniversary, owner Jarrett Wrisley said the booze ban and limited operating hours had inflicted pain in “unmanageable ways,” leading him to announce the bad news and leave Thailand after 13 years.

Ratchada Train Night Market

File photo of Train Night Market Ratchada, or Talad Rot Fai.

A large outdoor market more popular with tourists felt the pain when they stopped arriving. While its management has been reluctant to say that it’s gone for good – and insists it will be back – the same team has in the meantime opened a new venue a few kilometers away near the Central Rama 9 shopping mall. 

Bei Otto

A file photo of Bei Otto in 2018. Photo: Bei Otto / Facebook

A German institution where untold schnitzel and pints were pounded for four decades said auf wiedersehen to its home on Soi Sukhumvit 20. We paid a visit on its last day, and you can read about it here.

Though its hallowed hall may be gone, fans of its on-brand pours of dark German lagers or authentic deli sauerkraut and meats can trek to a new location on Phetchaburi Road. 

Hard Rock 

Photo: Hard Rock Cafe Bangkok / Facebook

For its 30th birthday, this rock-themed restaurant franchise serving fried comfort food to tourists worldwide announced in March that it was over for its multistory Siam Square branch, which opened there in 1991. Say what you will about Hard Rock’s bonafides, it meant the end of three decades of barbecued ribs, cheeseburgers, steaks and milkshakes washed down with countless live rock performances.

The fall of Scala

At left, Scala theater intact. At right, its demolition a Monday morning of Nov. 1. Images: Photo: Philip Jablon, Weerapon Singnoi / Foto_Momo

Bitter contempt may not be one of the stages of grief, but that’s what many felt just last month when the wrecking ball swung at art deco standalone cinema Scala. Just weeks earlier, assurances had been made that some of its architecturally significant structure would remain intact, even if the rest was to be gutted for a mall.

Instead, the whole beautiful thing was knocked down in a day’s time to make room for yet another shopping mall belonging to the great Central Pattana, the nation’s largest retail property developer. 

The final Jam!

Photo: Jam Cafe

Jam Cafe just off lower Sathon Road was always close to our hearts. A cultural melting pot where all tribes were welcome, walking into Jam on any given night could mean slick electronic DJs, weird Japanese noise shows, a movie club, or retro gaming tournament. Jam’s contributions to Bangkok were great, and it owes a debt to owners Dhyan Ho and Napanarit “Butter” Savantrach.

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