The Shark Club, The Best Bar In Patong Beach Thailand.
The Shark Club
When I arrived in Phuket in the summer of 2000, The Shark Club was one of only 2 nightclubs in Phuket. The Tiger entertainment complex had not yet been completed, and Taipan and VIP were the only other clubs in town. The two top spots were Banana Disco, and The Shark Club. Banana Disco is still around, and it has not changed much over the years. The Shark Club was without a doubt the most popular nightclub in Phuket, and in my opinion it was the best nightclub I have ever been to. Unfortunately the nightclub was shut down in 2002, and the owner Kevin Radke was kicked out of the country and blacklisted for life. Since then the nightlife in Phuket has never been the same, sure there are many great bars, but none that will ever be as iconic as The Shark Club.
WHAT MADE THE SHARK CLUB SPECIAL?
What made The Shark Club special was that on any given night there would be hundreds of young single Thai bar girls looking to hook up. These girls were not working as prostitutes for the bar as is the case at many other bars in Phuket. These girls were freelance bar girls that would just hang around, dance and have fun and look for potential customers. The girls were paid by the nightclub as dancers and were only required to show up and hang out and dance. The woman to man ratio at The Shark Club was normally about 3-1.
WHY DID THE SHARK CLUB GET CLOSED DOWN?
The official report in the local Thai media was that the nightclub was having live sex shows. Apparently they had a dance contest that got a little carried away, and some girl got naked and preformed some sexually explicit act involving nudity. Now if you have travelled to Phuket or anywhere else in Thailand, you are probably thinking.. so what! I have seen plenty of sex shows in Thailand. Well in fact there is a whole street full of bars that have live sex shows every night, and it is just 100 meters away from The Shark Club. So why did The Shark Club get closed down for something that you see all the time in Phuket? The rumors are that the owner was not paying off the right people in the government and police department.
I never met the owner of The Shark Club, however I did meet a few of his bodyguards. Kevin Radke is Canadian, and was the owner of The Shark Club until it was closed in 2002. It was rumored that the local police, mafia and government officials were demanding large sums of money from Kevin in order to stay in business. When he refused to pay, threats were made on his life, he employed several former Thai soldiers and policemen as personal bodyguards. It is also rumored that he wore a bulletproof vest and carried a gun wherever he went. He is lucky to have escaped with his life, regardless of the fact that corrupt Thai officials stole his business from him.
After the closing of The Shark Club, the staff of the nightclub protested for months in front of the closed building. The photo above to the right shows banners and signs that the staff placed in front of the building. The staff continued to be paid their salary by the owner Mr. Radke while they protested the closure of the club. It is now almost 10 years later and I still meet people that talk about Kevin, his staff are still loyal and they still love him. I have never met anyone that had anything but good things to say about working for Kevin.
UPDATE- NOV 15, 2010
Today I received the following email from "Kevin Radke", the owner of the Shark Club.
Just recently, I was shown your article in connection with the Shark Club in Phuket, Thailand. My name is Kevin Radke, and was the owner of the Shark Club. First, I would like to send you my sincere thanks for the accuracy you maintained in your article.
If in your travels you have time to respond to this email, that would be great. Keeping this short, I would just like to pass on to you a couple of things, in 2011 there will be a new Shark Club & Discotheque opening, ( the location I will reveal soon ). If you are still in Phuket, or visit there again and possibly have the opportunity to see any of my staff, please pass on my warmest wishes, and hopes for their continued happiness into the future. They were, and always will be special people to me.