Whenever – if ever – Bangkok’s nightlife returns, it will be without Thonglor venue 12×12, as the award-winning dive bar is throwing in the towel due to government restrictions on alcohol, capacity and closing times.
I had a chance to visit owner Hiroshi Matsui before he heads back to his hometown of Kanagawa, Japan, in two weeks as he was preparing for a yard sale this weekend.
Since opening its doors in 2014, 12×12 earned praise for its vintage decor, cozy vibes and, most importantly, open-minded music policy. Depending on the event, the sound could range from disco to jazz and experimental electronica. The venue won BK mag’s B.A.D Award for best dive bar – twice! – in 2018 and 2019.
Hiroshi got his start in the bar business back in the early 2000s when he and his business partner opened Breaks in Soi Silom 2/1. In 2014 Hiroshi decided to go all D.I.Y and built 12×12 in a townhouse he was renting in Thonglor. In its heyday, 12×12 would be packed with hipster Japanese expats as well as Thai and foreign partygoers. Behind the bar, 12×12 mixologist Tar would make the venue’s signature cocktails. In the DJ booth, local talents like Boogie G, Masa and NK Chan dropped funk, disco and techno beats for folks dancing on the venue’s small floor.
The downside to all the fun was that the bar was located in a residential area, and the music couldn’t be played loud, and visits from the boys in brown were commonplace (it was basically around the corner from Thonglor PD).
Hiro Oyama, a DJ and event organizer who staged its regular Giant Swing parties, speaks fondly of the venue. To him what made 12×12 extremely important was that it was one of the few places that welcomed both established and up-and-coming DJs, bands and artists. It was a place where everyone had a chance to showcase their art.
“Where should I DJ next time when I go to Bangkok? We need a place where people are relaxed in a friendly atmosphere. It’s very sad we lost that kind of place,” he said.
The last major event was the Giant Swing 10th Anniversary Party in October 2020, back before COVID-19’s big return shut down the capital.
Before he quits Bangkok to return to Japan, Hiroshi plans hold a yard sale this weekend and sell off his record collection as well as the vintage motorbikes that were parked at the bar’s entrance. For me, it’s heartbreaking to see another venue bite the dust.
While taking a break from packing on a recent day Hiroshi sat down, lit a cigarette and looked around the room where the bar used to be.
“I’d like to think that I did something for the club scene here,” he said.
12×12 will be open one last time for its yard sale this weekend. It can only welcome up to 25 people at a time, so please contact Hiroshi in advance through the 12×12 Facebook Page.
Mongkorn “DJ Dragon” Timkul, founder of Homebass and Dubway, is a veteran of Bangkok’s nightlife scene and a contributing writer.
This article, Iconic Thonglor dive bar, party sanctuary ’12×12′ says Sayonara, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.