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Soho goes the way of the Dodo

Historic Chiang Mai gay bar closes its doors

One of Chiang Mai’s longest established venues, Soho bar, has closed permanently. Originally opened in 2004 by Paddy and his partner Oud, it spearheaded the more upmarket end of Chiang Mai’s gay scene at that time. A place where older foreigners could go to socialise in a pleasant relaxing ambience free from money boys. Paddy was always holding court at the bar and ready to entertain with his many amusing and interesting stories.

After Paddy sold up, the bar went through a lean patch, whilst run by non gay owners which saw many regulars going elsewhere. However, it was brought back to life in 2008 by gregarious Chiang Mai socialite Scott Taylor-Chanchoo who’s friendly personality and adept social skills bought the customers back to enjoy a well run, sophisticated cocktail establishment that was a cut above the average in Chiang Mai at that time.

Soho Gay Bar in Chiang Mai
Scott Taylor sitting with customers at the Bar in Soho Bar

In 2011 Scott sold Soho Bar to American-thai Couple Shauna and Rabbit, who have managed it since then. However, despite many attempts at re-invention, re-organisation, several makeovers and trying new approaches, along with the sometimes tumultuous personal issues between the owners, the bar always seemed to struggle in more recent years. Perhaps a reflection on the general demise of the gay bar in general as LGBT people find new ways to socialise outside the ghetto. A situation predicted in this 2013 article for City life by Bon Tong: where did all the nice boys go.

Soho Gay Bar in Chiang Mai closes down
Soho Gay Bar in Chiang Mai closes down

The demise of a Chiang Mai institution

Scott Taylor told Chiang Mai Gay News, “I am saddened by the closure of a Chiang Mai institution. So thankful for the many fond memories and wonderful friends who passed through the bar. He went on, “I wish Shana and Krathai (Rabbit) all the best in their future endeavors”.

soho staff 2
Shauna with some of the staff at Soho bar in 2015

In a recent communication to members of the Chiang Mai LGBT ex-pats group, co-ordinator David Cartwright said, “just to let you know that Soho Bar has closed – the sad demise of a veritable gay institution”. David expanded a little further saying, “I do believe many bars are struggling to survive nowadays – gay or straight – and in order to survive they really do have to provide ‘that something extra’ in order to retain their customer base and indeed attract new customers”.

In some ways, the end of Soho bar is symptomatic of other issues in Chiang Mai. Back in 2004 it enjoyed an excellent location on Huay Kaew Road. Although a main thoroughfare, back then evening traffic was quite light and it was easy to park on the road outside. In recent years, the traffic has become overwhelming; a major detraction for an open air roadside bar. Whilst parking has become impossible. These issues are now common for many Chiang Mai venues, including in the trendy Nimman area where traffic gridlock and new condos are starting to strangle business.

Soho bar in its heyday
Soho bar in its heyday
  1. Scott says:

    I will always remember Paddy standing by the front door and personally inviting me in for a drink. I hurriedly ran back to Lotus Pang Suan Kaew, to drop off my Amazing Thailand tourists, and sneaked back over to Soho for that cocktail. Little did I know that a few years later I would be owning the bar. I lived in the same building as the then owners,Barry and Lynn Constantine, and I had been begging them to sell it to me. I ran into them in the elevator and they asked me if I still wanted to buy it. I said yes, they handed me the keys, got into a cab and left for the UK.

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