BANGKOK — Another piece of Bangkok history will bite the dust when a nightlife fixture of six decades shuts down July 2.
Check Inn 99, which for 59 years has entertained guests in keeping with the changing times, will close its doors forever after being evicted in the name of commercial development.
“It’s sad. It’s the only original Bangkok bar from the ‘50s,” said owner Chris Catto-Smith, who took over the bar in 2011 with his wife and business partner.
Catto-Smith said he was given one month’s notice his bar had to close, as the landlord wants to develop the building into what he described as a “trinket market” and hotel lobby.
“There always was a plan to develop it,” Catto-Smith said. “The lease expires on July 5, and we gotta move out.”
Asked what’s next, Catto-Smith said he’s unsuccessfully been looking for another venue.
The nightclub, also styled as Checkinn and formerly known as the Copacabana, has operated continuously since 1957. Many celebrities have passed through its doors, Catto-Smith said, such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who dropped by in the late ‘60s. Musicians Sammy Hagar, Mick Jagger and the late Freddy Mercury are others who paid a visit.
“People were coming in,” Chris said. “But they stayed low profile. They didn’t come to perform, they came to relax.”
It was home to some famous courtesans, such as the much-celebrated “Mama Noi” who until her death earlier this year would still drop by to regale guests with her stories.
The bar-restaurant-lounge was little more than a seedy brothel and in dire straits before Catto-Smith bought it back in 2011. Long gone was the tuxedoed dwarf who once welcomed guests around the turn of the century (He died).
The Australian owner made it a labor of love and revived its fortunes as a retro-kitsch lounge where regulars swapped stories over cocktails under the roar of Music of the Heart, the Filipina family act belting out cover songs night after night.
Check Inn joins the bygone remnants of a previous generation’s Bangkok, part of the rapidly receding men’s world where go-go bars and commercial sex services were mainstays in a cosmopolitan nightlife scene which mostly catered to foreigners.
The club’s last hurrah will be July 1. It will host a series of farewell parties starting this Sunday with Vanishing Bangkok, showing a collection of 200 unpublished vintage photos of old Bangkok, taken by Mama Noi and a “Peace Corps guy,” along with jazz session.
The countdown parties will take place from Monday until Thursday. Friday is the last chance to say buh-bye with a big party that promises to carry on until early Saturday morning.
House band Music of the Heart will sing and dance their hearts out every evening, Sunday through Friday’s farewell party.
Check Inn 99 is located between Sukhumvit sois 5 and 7, reachable on foot from BTS Nana exit No. 1.