The future is uncertain for Phra Khanong’s most popular outdoor dining spot, despite rumors that its obituary has already been written.
While W District’s owners have not denied plans to demolish the food stalls and tables that comprise W Market to make way for more desperately needed condos, they are keeping future plans close to the vest.
It’s those owners, Woraluk Property Co. Ltd., that we have to thank for the W, which also winks at “wellness,” a core tenant of the family firm headed by movie theater magnate Wichai Poolworaluk.
Those in the know began whispering of W Market’s demise weeks ago. But a poll of its vendors found most in the dark of any development plans – or their own potential eviction. It was business as usual on a recent night at barbecue joint Holy Smokes, where an employee said she had not heard anything.
Others had heard the rumors but no solid information, while some had gotten wind and already moved on.
A Bang Bang Burgers employee who declined to give her name said their restaurant closed there in September after its owners learned of the development plans. “W District owners wanted the land back,” she said. The burger joint has another location on Soi Sukhumvit 11.
The owner of seafood stall Little Miss Fish said she closed her place in July. She has no plans to reopen at another venue.
Woraluk representatives said they would have a statement about W Market’s future ready last week but then declined to provide one.
Anchored by the towering, 51-story Sky Walk Condominium, W District is bounded by sois Sukhumvit 69, 71, and Pridi Banomyong 3. After the district’s completion in late 2014, W Market sprang up and quickly became a melting pot for resident immigrants, Thai cityfolk, and the occasional tourist.
Its charm relies on its ad-hoc nature. Instead of overly planned stabs at “elegance” that render similar, high-end developments sterile and devoid of life, W Market is more chaotic and human. Mismatched tables are surrounded by patchwork stalls selling everything from THB350 hamburgers to less expensive Nepalese food. Barely tolerable toilets sweat and stink in a corner. Everyone is kept abuzz by eclectic and occasionally eccentric staff running beers and booze from a central bar.
While a Taco Bell has opened at the entrance from Sukhumvit Road, there’s little that’s corporate about W Market beyond occasional dek cheer beer promotional models.
It’s become a favorite spot for many to gather after work, eat with friends, meet Bumble dates, and people-watch. Its success has led to a growing presence of sex workers that give some a creep vibe. But, on a given night, most people carousing with friends seem oblivious or unconcerned.
Otherwise, W District also has a community mall where “wellness” seems to mean beauty clinics, and the Beat Hotel, an “art hotel” that didn’t seem to be thriving prior to the pandemic.
There seems plenty of space to relocate the food court’s vibes throughout the 2-hectare (12 rai) property, and we specifically asked Woraluk whether it was considering any options to the market as it exists today.
A Woraluk spokeswoman initially said last month that plans were in development for relocating the market – and possibly more.
“We have plans to renovate the whole area, but for now, yes, we still have plans on doing a condo around that area. However we are still trying to keep W Market within the area,” she said Oct. 17, giving an early 2023 start for the project.
There seemed more uncertainty about those plans afterward, and a company rep said Tuesday that they could not be confirmed, indicating that Woraluk would issue a statement at an indefinite date in the future.
While it’s unclear how much revenue the food court generates beyond lease agreements, the fact that most urbanites conflate W Market with W District underscores its value as the anchor of the increasingly cosmopolitan Phra Khanong neighborhood.
And while Woraluk plans its next move, fresh rumors have entered circulation that neighbors are planning their own versions to fill W Market’s possible void.
Additional reporting Tyler Roney