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.