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Steve Wood at the Aussie Bar:unfairly made out to be the villain

Aussie Bar Solves its Beer Mat Heist Problem

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
THE Great Beer Mat Heist at the Aussie Bar in Patong is unlikely to be repeated for one simple reason: plain beer mats are on the way.

Aussie Bar owner Steve Wood thinks the popular antipodean sport of ''souveniring'' may disappear with the kangaroo decorations that made the mats popular with pilferers.

It's early and the bar, one of the largest in Patong, is quiet. So is Mr Wood as he sips a cup of tea. Around him, the television screens are already lighting up, even if the bar staff are not quite.

Tonight the bar will be throbbing with perhaps 300 fans for the telecast of the traditional State of Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland, a highlight of the Australian rugby league calendar.

Mr Wood still seethes over what he sees as the largely one-sided media coverage and unfair reaction to the incident involving mother-of-four Annice Smoel.

You can bet the rights and wrongs of it will be a topic of conversation in the bar tonight, and most nights for the forseeable future.

''The ladies came to the bar, borrowed the bar mat, and as far as I knew, that was the end of the story,'' he told Phuketwan.

''I came back from Hong Kong and my staff told me a lady had stolen a bar mat, and we got it back. That was the end of it, I thought.

''We've got video cameras everywhere. If they don't believe us, we usually just show them the video.

''It's not a $5 thing. By the time I actually bring them here, it has probably cost me $100.

''It's a big shame that it happened. I don't see the bar mat as the problem. That was the start of it, but it's more the irresponsibleness and being not willing to show remorse.

''I wasn't here. As it is now, I still don't have the whole story. But the problem was whatever happened back at the police station.

''People heard one side of the story and it was exaggerated way out of proportion. If you are going to go to the media, at least tell the truth.

I was slandered, the Thai authorities were slandered . . . as far as I can see, the Thai authorities did their job perfectly.

''My staff went down the next day to the police station and tried to get her out, but by then they weren't going to let her out. The police weren't going to say what she actually did.

''The sad thing really was that when she left Thailand, she still had no respect and she showed no remorse at all for her own actions. That's the sad thing about it all.

''I've got three daughters myself, you know, (Ms Smoel has four) and the media depicted me as a bad man and a scapegoat.

''I think a lot of good advice was ignored. So it just went on and on and on.

''If you do something silly, and we all do something we wouldn't normal do when we are drunk, but if you do something wrong, apologise and move on.

''Do the right thing and enjoy your holiday.''

As we talk, the electricity fails. Some things may have improved about Patong, but the power supply remains a bit dodgy.

Then there's the economic downturn.

With Phuket clubs and bars now facing pressure, Mr Wood, 45, believes that bar closing time should stay at 2am but that perhaps discotheques should be allowed to stay open a little later.

''The discos only get a short time to make their money,'' he said. ''They should have an extra hour or two, not a free-for-all everywhere.

''People aren't spending money, are they? People are a lot more careful nowadays.''

Australians are continuing to prop up the tourism industry through tough times, he said.

''The Australian Government has done a great job in keeping the Aussies coming. For about $1000 you can get eight or 10 days at a good resort.''

On the whole, he likes the way Patong is heading. ''We like the mothers and the kids coming,'' he said. ''That's the right direction.

''We don't want the sex tourists in four different places in Thailand. I think the Government did the right thing in moving it (the sex industry) over to Pattaya and turning Phuket into a family destination.

''Sex tourism is what everyone was doing 10 years ago. For the first year we opened, we had hostesses, then we decided to change, although we do get some of those guys still, and ladies, who come to our bar.

''It's amazing how much Phuket has grown. Every time I look up there's a new hotel being built.''

Among the tourists the number one gripe, he says, is the tailors and touts.

''Thais will talk to you, but they won't grab you. The tailors stand there, blocking your way, and try to sell you a suit, or whatever.

''The Nepalese are more of a problem than anything. As a foreign tourist you get grabbed 30 or 40 times just walking down the road . . . plenty of time-share people, too, all just trying to make a quid.''

When an Aussie friend died earlier this year in a motorcycle accident, Mr Wood helped to start a campaign to care for the friend's four children, one with a chronic heart complaint.

''We've put the money into a foundation to take care of some future operations,'' Mr Wood said.

''Before Larry Cunningham came to town as honorary consul, we often worked in with the embassy to help Aussies in trouble. Back in those days, there weren't so many people.

''Along with building numbers, you get building problems. Back when we were all backyard style bars, that wouldn't be good enough now.

''In my book, Larry Cunningham is a hero. So are the embassy staff. They went way out past the regular bounds to help.

''Phuket has been up and down. I've been here for nine, 10 years. I like the place. And I love Thailand.

''The beer mat incident has certainly done some damage. I hope we can turn that around.''

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keep this place for oz rejects .

Posted by captainmuff on June 6, 2009 07:26


Saturday August 8, 2020
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