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Where can I find information about buying or starting my own gogo bar?

gogo business gogos

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#1 gzmike

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 07:14 AM

Where can I find information about buying or starting my own gogo bar? I have looked through many posts all over this site about it, but the only advice I saw was not to do it. I don't expect to make alot of money, but would just be happy to just do a little better than break even and save the money that I would spend at the gogos and maybe an apartment if there was an owner's room attached. I just recently returned from my first trip there and spent almost all of my time going from gogo to gogo on walking street.

 

I would be happy to be one of several partners to keep the investment lower and not have all the responsibility for myself. Something like Xzone but maybe a little smaller would be great and it doesn't have to be on walking street.

I know I will get replies telling me not to get into this and suggest alternatives, but this is the only business I would want to be in to justify quitting my job to be able to live in Thailand. I would be happy to work as a manager at a gogo so I could learn the business and hopefully meet the right potential partners.

If this is not the right place to post this, then someone please let know where is better, especially if it can be noticed but current gogo owners! Free beers and a few free barfines in my future gogo bar for those who can help!



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#2 ProudAussie

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 08:46 AM

Your right alot of BM's will say dont do it including me but I am sure you can do the sums to find out its a quick way to lose your hard earned money ! Just my 2cents.



#3 welshwonder

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 08:59 AM

Well I am not a go go ownwer nor a manager of one , but if I intended to go down the road which you are thinking about at the moment I would be talking to bms sinkorswim (babydolls) or Laamok as both have a better insight to the workings of a go go and how they work. Another option i would do is visit the go gos in early afternoon/evening and talk to the farang owners/managers and get an in depth first hand knowledge of what it takes. Its not impossible to make a living out of a go go if its run well and there is always go gos for sale but be careful and research the go go as there are also hidden/unforseen exspenses such as police tea money,immigration payments etc. Another safer option is becomming a partner in go go (50/50) minimsing the financial risk if things dont work out or just try your hand out and test the water at running a smaller establishment such as beer bar and rent it on monthly basis just to get experience and no big outlay in money and no great financial loss. Any way thats just my opinion, i wish you the best of luck in your new adventure and the beers are on you when I am in town 555 :Buddy1:

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#4 eXplosief

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 09:12 AM

Running an AGoGo is like any business, you will need to know how the business works, and then i don't mean from only the other side of the counter. So you will need a partner who knows how things work.

Next running a business in Thailand is very much about connections and who you know. As it seems you only have been here once, i doubt you are much connected yet. So again you would need a partner.

But as you hardly know anybody that partner will also be an unknown to you and you will be putting a lot of money that you can not really afford to loose as it is your pension on the line trusting someone you hardly know.

Just some things to keep in mind. Hope you make the right decision and things will work out for you.

#5 pubstud

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 10:38 AM

Can't think of anything worse. You really want to spend your life sitting in a smoke-filled bar breathing that shit into your lungs every night, and drinking piss every night with a bunch of drunks and bullshit artists? Then you got to be dealing with sleeze - paying off corrupt cops, lying stealing Thai gals and their pimp boyfriends hanging around. Sounds like a fucking nightmare to me, but if that's your thing go for it. But as eXplosief just said you need business expertise and good connections to make it work. I'd be careful about a partner though, especially a Thai partner, especially a Thai GF/wife partner. Many men before you have returned home to farangland with a toothbrush and a pair of diry underpants in a paperbag after investing in Thai bars.

#6 Joe_Le_Force

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 12:04 PM

If I could suggest you need at least 50 visits and experience under your belt before even thinking of going into the Bar Business......

I was managing bars after over a 100 trips 9 years ago, and still was struggling with the unknown.......Eventually I gave up without any losses, but I was perhaps lucky.

#7 badboybilly

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 12:17 PM

I had experience in running a boy bar with my boyfriend.......although more a bar it was also a bar cum go go bar.
This was in 2008.We had issues with immigration ......staff........etc

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#8 GHOST MEDIC999

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 01:25 PM

Well as others have said or hinted at, do not bother.

One visit under your belt ? Mate I am no good at Maths, but even I can tell you this will not add up. Why not change your plans and if you are pretty solvent do a long term rental get to know the Ex Pats, Sniff about maybe do a bit of Teaching on the side, help out at a Ex Pat Bar then see if it is still for you. This of course will take a few Years to Arm you with all the information which at the moment you do not have.

#9 DMustang

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 10:32 PM

OK guys. We know there is a good reason for the constant litany of "Don't Do It!" whenever a board member asks about how to start up a bar.

That said, it is a question that comes up on a repeating basis, and it *is* possible (although not probable) to do so.

So, could we at least start a thread where the negativity is minimized, and solid advice and suggestions are presented to give anyone
who is willing to risk their own finances to start a bar the best starting point we can give them?

#10 kanjana

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 10:58 PM

Most people say "don't" but they are just repeating the previous guy and as they have no interest in doing so themselves, it is easier to sit on the sidelines and chirp up about how it will all go wrong and you'll lose your money etc. Most people have never run their own business back home either so they really know jack shit about what they are talking about. Until it is your money on the line you haven't a clue.

You know where the money comes from but you need to know where the money goes. Then you have to understand how and why the money comes and how and why the money goes. A little hint here: the answers are not the same !

Remember that you are not selling a homogeneous product. In fact, getting enough product and then retaining it will be your greatest headache.

If I were you, I'd put a couple of mamasans from different go gos on small retainers as they teach you about the machinations of go go operations from the girls side of things.

#11 Angelo

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:47 AM

Running an agogo to save yourself the money you spent in other a gogos is a bit like starting your own car company to save yourself the money of buying a car.

Joking aside, I realize you're looking at it for more than that. To earn some extra money and keep yourself busy in retirement but the fact is that spending all night in your own a gogo is nothing like spending the night being a customer of other a gogos. You'll be constantly busy with this and that and not just the things you have to do when running a business in general. You've got all the hassles and headaches that come with running a borderline legal business in a corrupt country as a foreigner. Basically, you have little legal ground to stand on in most matters and that's assuming being legally covered means anything when corrupt police are involved.

I know people with small, "normal" businesses that have had to deal with shakedown and threats of jail time despite being 100% legal. I'm talking about bushiness like a small coffee shop and a motorbike rental place. Running a bar or a gogo makes you a bigger target than other businesses.

If you still want to do this, you really should know someone fairly up in the food chain in the Pattaya/Chon Buri police. It's inevitable that you'll need help from someone like this. And that someone will be expecting regular compensation to help you out.

The owner of Iron is a very good friend of mine and a pretty good business woman. She made it a point to make her contacts as high as possible and pay them directly. No local beat cop or mid level BIB can bother her and she hasn't had a single issue with the police since opening. You deal with the low or mid level guys and they will nickle and dime the life out of you. Then again, she's Thai and that means she's in a much better position right off the bat than a falang would be.

Remember, having business smarts, experience and common sense are only the beginning. You need to be prepared for when the police or even other business owners get you in their cross hairs. You also need to understand how to properly deal with these situations.

For example, the coffee shop owner I mentioned before got paid a visit by some nobody beat cops looking to make some quick cash. He had everything in order but the still told him they would have to lock him up over the weekend while they verified that his work permit was valid... or he could just pay them off. Had he paid them off, they would have expected a payment regularly from then on otherwise they would make up some reason to make his life miserable. He knew the chief of the immigration department in Jomtien and gave him a call. The police trying to extort money from him were told that he was not to be bothered again but he also made sure to ask that they be thanked for doing a good, thorough job in making sure his papers were in order. He didn't want the officers to get in any sort of trouble as they might find other ways to get back at him.

Sometimes you'll have to play BS games like that when it comes to the politics of running a highly visible business as a foreigner in Thailand.

I have seen what friends of mine who have done well such as the owner of Iron and the co-owner of The Office/MASH/Submarine have done right. I've also seen what other friends have done which have been moderately successful, all of which own bars. I've also seen the mistakes of owners as Nok who owns Nok Bar (used to be Voodoo a gogo) which has lead to a flailing business and others such as one of the co-owners of Bartimes which went completely under.

After seeing all of that over the past 5+ years, I've gotten a good sense of what it takes to run a successful nightlife venue in Patts and Pattong but even so, I wouldn't do it despite always having had a bit of desire to try my hand at it.

The best advice I could give you aside from making sure you have good contact(s) as high as possible in the local/provincial police is to befriend as many existing a gogo owners as you can. Squeeze as much info and insight out of them as you can. Spend as much time as possible talking to the girls, mamasans, managers and owners of various bars and a gogos and watch how well they do over time. Build up a good understanding of what works and what doesn't. An a gogo is a very simple business, from a business perspective. But when you add in the politics, ever changing attitude of the police and government, Thais or even other falangs who have it out for you because you're doing well or competing with them and it can get a lot more complicated.

Taking all of that into account, you really have to ask yourself if it's all worth the stress, effort and risk. Ask yourself why exactly you want to start an a gogo vs a more traditional business which would probably be of a hassle and gamble to start. It's always better to be a customer in an a gogo than the owner. I get bored of most a gogos after 30-60 minutes. I can't imagine spending all night, every night in the same one AND being responsible for everything.

If I ever did start an a gogo, these are some of the main things I'd do:

1. Put it in a very good location in terms of foot traffic and visibility. In Patts, this means on or not too far down one of the side streets of the first two thirds of WS. There are some other possibilities such as LK Metro but aside from those two areas, I personally wouldn't bother. This means a higher startup cost but it's essential. If you can't afford it, wait till you can.

2. Hire the absolute best manager and mamasan(s) that you can find (and really hunt for them). Your managers and mamasans can make or break your a gogo. They're also in a position to rob you blind or sell you out to the cops. How the treat customers and the dancers is very important.

3. Keep a good stable of attractive girls at all times. Sure, you can get away with having less attractive girls if you've got something to make up for it like Babydolls does with their over the top raunchy displays or Angelwitch does with their shows. But unless you plan on having a viable angle which draw people in, you've got to have lots of sexy girls. I know this sounds obvious but you'd be surprised at how difficult it can be to find AND keep these girls. How you and your management treat them and the restrictions and quotas you place on them will play a huge part in this. High drink quotas and barfine quotas for example can make you more money but turn off a lot of girls. Have a crap selection of girls or make them overly pushy for drinks and you've shot yourself in the foot.

4. Run it like a real business, like my livelihood depended on it; not as if it were a hobby. If you want a hobby, take up kite surfing or golf. Or you could be a professional annoying drunk (this is a very popular hobby in Patts). But if you're going to run an a gogo, do it with a high degree seriousness or skip it and just enjoy being a customer in other a gogos. Let their owners worry about all the BS.

Hope this helps a bit. This can be a challenge and there's nothing wrong with that. Just don't go into it expecting it to be like running any typical sort of business. Do your homework before you lay a single Baht on the line.

Best of luck and if you do open one, I'll be happy to stop by for a drink or two.

#12 Kangarooted

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:57 AM

If you still want to do this, you really should know someone fairly up in the food chain in the Pattaya/Chon Buri police. It's inevitable that you'll need help from someone like this. And that someone will be expecting regular compensation to help you out.

The owner of Iron is a very good friend of mine and a pretty good business woman. She made it a point to make her contacts as high as possible and pay them directly. No local beat cop or mid level BIB can bother her and she hasn't had a single issue with the police since opening. You deal with the low or mid level guys and they will nickle and dime the life out of you. Then again, she's Thai and that means she's in a much better position right off the bat than a falang would be.

For example, the coffee shop owner I mentioned before got paid a visit by some nobody beat cops looking to make some quick cash. He had everything in order but the still told him they would have to lock him up over the weekend while they verified that his work permit was valid... or he could just pay them off. Had he paid them off, they would have expected a payment regularly from then on otherwise they would make up some reason to make his life miserable. He knew the chief of the immigration department in Jomtien and gave him a call. The police trying to extort money from him were told that he was not to be bothered again but he also made sure to ask that they be thanked for doing a good, thorough job in making sure his papers were in order. He didn't want the officers to get in any sort of trouble as they might find other ways to get back at him.

Interesting post - also seen EXACTLY the same scenario play out by another Thai Lady owner of a bar - its the standard M.O. and needs to be properly prepared for.....which takes time....and money.

Your advice is also quite positive and spot on, however - to the OP.......
DONT DO IT ! lol

#13 eXplosief

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 03:01 AM

1 of the best posts on this topic i have seen.

#14 badboybilly

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 03:42 AM

mmmmmmmmm............I say do it.............

#15 ProudAussie

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 03:50 AM

You could alays ask the local B.I.B Im sure they could help you ! :LOL2:

#16 footypjman

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 04:06 AM

How do immigration issues come into play? I have always understood Thailand to be fairly restrictive on people coming in. I would assume working as a manager in even your own bar is going to have immigration issues.

And, while I don't want to be Debbie Downer, I think the best advice is to spend a great deal of time studying the situation and all that is involved (as others have said, try to talk to owners and ex pats during the non-peak times -- at 11 p.m., every crowded gogo looks like an overwhelming success!). While I am in the minority that thinks it could turn out just fine, I think you stand no chance of success if you jump in with both feet without doing VERY extensive research.

As the late, great John Wooden said, "failure to prepare is preparing to fail."

#17 eXplosief

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 05:33 AM

How do immigration issues come into play? I have always understood Thailand to be fairly restrictive on people coming in. I would assume working as a manager in even your own bar is going to have immigration issues.

Often foreign owners of bars or GoGo's do not have a work permit. They only own the business and have employees (thai) to do the work. But just sitting in your own business and talking to a customer can already been seen as working. Or stepping behind the bar to turn the volume down. Also when you do have a working permit it does have restrictions on the work you are allowed to do, mainly work that thai can not do. 1 step outside the tasks described in your work permit and you could have a problem (or opportunity to make some tea money).

I don't have a business here or a work permit, so i could be wrong on things. If so then someone who does have the experience please correct me.

#18 pubstud

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 05:35 AM

I've never run a bar in Thailand but I did work in pubs (barman/bar manager) back in Australia in the 1970s. It was called the "bar trade" back then (may even still be called that) the reason being that like all trades there are many things to know and do correctly. In 30 years living in LOS I seen and known countless guy who come to Thailand with the dream of starting a bar and sit there all day drinking free piss with their pals and poking all the gals for free. An unprofessional attitude like that soon ends up in disaster. If a farang bar owner has a Thai missis and he pokes a go-go gal then missis has lost face big big time and will turn on the farang. I've heard all the stories: plant some weed in his room and call the cops; pour shampoo on the bathroom floor so he slips and breaks his hip/neck.

So to do it properly you need business expertise, accounting experience, experience in staff management, very good connections with officials/cops/immigration. As others have pointed out you need to find a very good and trustworthy mamasan and manager (not that easy to do)

It's not impossible but I would suggest totally dropping the idea unless someone has spent at least 2 years living in Thailand, gained some insight into the "true" Thai nature (not just the smile for tourists) and made lots of friends/connections and got lots of good advice from guys already running bars/pubs here. Plus learned some Thai language so you have an idea on what's been said around you.

#19 gzmike

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:29 PM

Thanks to all for the useful information. It sounds like making those connections with the BiB and others would be the biggest challenge for me, and of course I would need the practical experience of working in a gogo before thinking of owning one. Maybe my boss could become my future partner that way. So I should change my question to how to find a job working at one!

#20 blueelf

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 04:41 PM

Learn Thai for a start, running a business in Thailand without understanding what is going on around you is going to cost you dearly, add to that you will be dealing with a lot of Thai low life who wont be taking legal advice before sorting things out Thai style.

#21 Joe_Le_Force

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 07:18 PM


Thanks to all for the useful information. It sounds like making those connections with the BiB and others would be the biggest challenge for me, and of course I would need the practical experience of working in a gogo before thinking of owning one. Maybe my boss could become my future partner that way. So I should change my question to how to find a job working at one!


I'm not so sure you can ??

I read of managers having these work permits but I was always under the impression you cannot get a WP for a job that a Thai national could do ??

I'm not sure how this Larry character at Secrets manages it, or even if he has one ?? I'm sure most swing by the seat of their pants.

Maybe join that forum and enquire.

#22 dc_publius

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:59 PM

Look at the prices agogos in Soi Cowboy/Nana/Walking Street sell for. Clearly, there is big money to be made and some people are making big money.

But the profits are reserved for people who can navigate shark infested waters. Agogos are probably completely illegal for anyone to operate, and your success in operating one depends not just on your business acumen (of which you have none) but also dealing with cops, immigration, etc.

Being a customer will be a lot cheaper for you than trying to be owner-customer.

Last but not least, if you get involved in agogo you are getting involved in the sex trade. USA government will not be amused and they can easily prosecute you if they find out and you step foot back in the US.

#23 manarak

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 10:13 PM

Last but not least, if you get involved in agogo you are getting involved in the sex trade. USA government will not be amused and they can easily prosecute you if they find out and you step foot back in the US.

That's what I hate about the US.
They think their Law applies to the whole world, but using false evidence to start a war is OK...

#24 MaiKowJai80

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:09 PM

never owned a gogo and the closest i've came to sailing the high seas was staying on a pals yacht but the most common sinking ship is a partnership, you're only as strong as your weakest link and you need to take biz seriously and know your partners inside out

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#25 DMustang

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 12:00 AM

I've been thinking about this, and was wondering if running a guesthouse would be a better idea for a business. I assume the startup costs
would be higher (potentially much higher if you do a full refurb/remodel), but there would be far fewer issues with being directly involved
with the sex trade. (You're just renting a room to people. What they do in the privacy of that room is their own business...)

The recent opening of the China Garden is a perfect example. It's a small guesthouse, with a non gogo/beer bar business on the ground floor.
High quality upgrades with Western amenities in the rooms, prompt and high quality customer service, and excellent price points for the product.
It's been pretty much full up since it's opening, and has been getting glowing reviews from the various board members who have stayed there.


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