Following is our experience with getting a simple food license.
We had already filed all the needed paperwork and had opened the bar already but had yet to open the kitchen. We already had all of our other licenses and were told the food license would be pretty easy but that it might need a little greasing. Yes folks - we probably needed to pay a little money to get the license. At first this bugged me since we had the proper permits, a clean kitchen and on paper there would be no reason to pay a “bribe” but supposedly the word was the food guy for our district was on the take. Meaning even if there was no reason to pay a bribe he was expecting one anyway. Welcome to Thailand.
So inspection day dawned and our lawyer met us to discuss the plan. He said we needed to agree ahead of time how much we would pay because he felt no that no matter what the inspector did he would be expecting to make some money - even if there were no reasons not to pass inspection. Yes - folks. No corruption here. So we readied our bribe device and waited. In Thailand all the under the table payments “sinbon” is done with simple white envelopes. U can pick yours up at 7/11.
The inspector came and the lawyer gave him a tour. He proceeded to check out all the floors and spent very little time if any in the kitchen. We assumed he was looking at everything so he could figure out how much we spent and therefore decide how much to charge us for something that we deserved to receive anyway. The funniest thing was him asking to test the stereo and asking us to turn it up loud. He then deduced that we had a stereo with a capacity over and above what we needed and calculated that the stereo could output more decibels than needed. I did not know the average food inspector was a sound expert. God knows all the gogo bars don’t have any high capacity sound systems.
So the inspector finished his inspection and talked with the lawyer. The lawyer came over and said that our place was unacceptable for food production. He had a list of about 25 things written in Thai. Our lawyer went on to say though that with, a figure quoted in Baht, that we could have our license anyway. Nice. I figure the salmonella cart downstairs that some people refer to as the burger cart was in much better shape to be serving food than our kitchen. Okay cool. Basically the lawyer went on to say that the items meant nothing and that if we did not pay something we would never get our license. So we cut the proposed figure in half and said we would pay.
He went back to the inspector who looked somewhat perplexed but countered. Lawyer returned with a new number. We cut it down again and the lawyer went back. Inspector frowned, talked some more and went out. I thought we might have had a problem but it turns out he had accepted our number but would not take the money onsite. Cool. Can’t be a bribe if u don’t pay it onsite? We added money to the envelope since we ended up paying about 2000 baht more than we had budgeted. In Thailand the under the table payments are a regular part of business that u have to factor into your expenses and budget accordingly. My buddy used to say that even if u started a vacation bible school in Bangkok that u would still pay the cops.
We handed over our money and the lawyer said we would get the license soon and to disregard the list. We watched as the food inspector walked around the plaza, lit a cigarette and waited in front of Cassanova. So telling to have the shakedown go down in ladyboy corner. Our laywer met him - handed over the envelope and the meeting was adjourned. License arrived days later. We have never seen the guy since but we always make sure we don’t turn our sound up too much. The joys of Thailand.
The Farang Speaks 2 Much