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Goodbye to Bangkok Thai

A 30-year-old institution shuts its doors (for now)

Bangkok Thai owner Pat Srisukkum

Greg Bollinger

Count me among the many Tulsans devouring as many meals as possible at Bangkok Thai Buffet before its impending closure later this month.

The restaurant, a local institution since 1988, began posting to Facebook in June about a disagreement it was having with its landlord regarding flood damage to the building it occupies along with disputes over its lease agreement. They said management wanted owner Pat Srisukkum to pay $14,000 in repairs from flood damage.

“Nothing happened until January. The building flooded two times in January. The managers come and point to us [and say] it’s my fault,” Srisukkum said. “The cast iron pipes, they’re disintegrated.”

But the flooding wasn’t even in Bangkok’s part of the 63-year-old building, according to Srisukkum. Just off of Harvard Avenue on East 32nd Place, the property is owned by the Tulsa-City County Library and managed by GBR Properties Inc.

On June 30, the restaurant’s Facebook page posted: “We will be here regardless of what happens next or if we get locked out. They can shut down the building but not the business Bangkok Thai Buffet. One thing we will promise to our loyal customers and friends is that Bangkok Thai Buffet will open somewhere somehow in Tulsa for Tulsa. That’s a sure thing!”

In September, the matter was taken to court, but the decision was not in the restaurant’s favor. They went public with the news, adding that another point of confusion was with the contract between Bangkok and management. Srisukkum said the contract they signed in 2017 was supposed to keep their rent the same—$2,600—until 2019. However, he said the contract was never completed and returned to Bangkok. “[New management] never asked about the contract or anything,” Srisukkum said.

“For 14 months they collected the check each month on time. We assumed everything was in order, after all, we have been here for decades,” Bangkok’s Facebook post elaborated.

Now the restaurant is renting the space without a contract on a month-to-month basis. Nov. 17 will be their last day in business at 3313 E. 32nd Place, but Srisukkum is actively looking for a new location with his wife and co-owner Wanvaree.

The couple bought Bangkok Thai Buffet, which originally opened as the Noodle Room in 1977, in 1988 and added the buffet in 1999. The restaurant has since become a local favorite, filling up each day at  lunch and dinner. The Srisukkums are there every day, cooking and filling up the trays on the steam tables with just enough food to satiate hungry diners but not enough to get cold and limp.

They always recognize and greet their regulars, who are dismayed at the potential closing of a local institution. Since the announcement, the couple has been overwhelmed with messages of support by fans begging them not to close, or to find another location quickly, and the restaurant has been flooded with hungry diners eager for one last taste of yellow curry, peanut chicken, or spicy pad thai.

The Srisukkums said they haven’t found a new location for the restaurant yet, but they plan to open “someplace in this area around spring.” For now, Pat Srisukkum said he plans to go to Thailand until the end of the year and will hit the ground running when he returns in early 2019, hoping to find a spot for Bangkok near its current location. “After 40-something years, we don’t want to rush.”

Until Nov. 17, you can find me in the buffet line at Bangkok.

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