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Pattaya bar owner goes on hunger strike over government diddling and re-opening fiasco

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Bryan Flowers, with his young family
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“Yesterday, I made a post about fasting (water + coconut water) until the bars open.”

Things are tough in the Pattaya bar scene. So much so that one of the town’s leading bar entrepreneurs, Bryan Flowers, who heads up the Night Wish Group, has decided to go on a hunger strike until the situation is resolved. ‘Resolved’ means the bars are open and serving alcohol.

Bryan’s Group started off their pandemic by rolling their sleeves up and getting involved in any number of local initiatives to help out-of-work staff get themselves sorted, or at least fed. But things went from bad to worse as it became clear to Bryan that the short-term ‘bandaid’ approach wasn’t going to be sustainable as the pandemic, and the Thai government response, kept Pattaya’s bars quiet.

We spoke to Bryan as he embarks on this deadly serious protest. Will this dramatic protest have any effect? Bryan is posting his ‘mood of the meeting’ daily on his Facebook page. His main issue, and that of many other bar and entertainment venue owners in the party town, is that the government and authorities have been giving too many postponed re-start dates and a sense of false hope.

“From what I have been told, December 1 is the day we are “definitely” going to be open. But it’s simply too long, especially as so many businesses are already open and those people are attempting to rebuild their lives and incomes again after this long period of closures. Why not us?”

Chon Buri, and therefore Pattaya, have been under the cloud of Dark Red, and now Red, Covid zoning which prevents bars from reopening or alcohol being served.

So will other operators get behind Bryan and follow his lead with the rest of November ahead for the fasting protest?

“No one has contacted me about joining in, I wouldn’t like to ask, for those without fasting experience it probably seems a bit crazy. I consider fasting healthy if done properly and with simple monitoring. However, plenty of people have been negative about my stand online, saying that it will make no difference.”

“Alone I don’t expect to make much of a difference, but if the landlords hounding us for rents understand how serious the problems are, then I hope to have made some small difference. I have had no income for almost two years, I am completely fed up with it all! We have been closed for seven months straight in this last round.”

If we’re reading the current tea leaves correctly, Bryan’s prediction of a December 1 reopening seems likely, although nothing has been announced officially at this stage. How would a December 1 re-opening pan out? And how many of Pattaya’s closed bars will actually open?

“We will be very busy to start with as we will open faster than most. Many bars will be slow to open, which is probably safer for them as more potential customers arrive. I think they will all reopen over time, but I think many bar owners have left this town or the country altogether and they might wait until they feel it is safe to open.”

“As soon as we open, all the landlords will have their hands out immediately with rents and key money likely to be back to the full amount. Opening the bars for me isn’t the end of the race, it’s just the start of the next fight.

Bryan has been a leading figure in the campaign to get Pattaya’s bars open again. He’s also led the way with changing up the old business model to try and make ends meet during the crisis.

“I am active on YouTube and I am in touch with customers regularly. I have no doubt that our bars will financially break-even very quickly. I am not sure about some of the gogo bars which rely on mostly Asian customers.”

“Our industry is different from the others, it will recover faster, I am not sure about mainstream travellers and tourism, it could take a while.”

In the meantime, Bryan’s patience has worn thin and forced him into this drastic action.

“We were told October, then November, now I am told its December 1. At the same time we have yet another landlord threatening us with a large amount of key money or they won’t renew the contract.”

“I simply feel helpless at this point, so I felt going on this fast was the best way of expressing myself without causing problems for or hurting people around me.”

“I wanted to use this negative energy and turn it into a positive, I feel sick with anxiety often, waiting for the next problem. We have a landlord making huge demands right now again and we have been told we can open on the 1st of December.”

If you would like to follow Bryan and his solo fasting protest, you can find him on Facebook under “Bryan Flowers” and meet him there.

 

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