interviews: Richard Agnew!

Richard Agnew is one of the long-time entrepreneurs who have made his mark in the city’s entertainment industry. He is a long-time resident in Angeles City for some 18 years now. He is also a veteran investor in Fields Avenue. Agnew is currently most prominent as the president of the fledgling organization for bars and clubs in the tourist district, the Association of Bar Owners in Angeles City (ABAC). had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Agnew recently and have a chat about ABAC and the nightlife district in general: What is ABAC? What is its purpose?

Agnew: ABAC is basically a self-regulating, self-disciplining body in partnership with the local government to help in the implementation of its laws and policies in the establishments in the entertainment district. It is an organization not only for bar owners and managers—who are, admittedly, mostly foreigners—but for its rank-and-file staff as well, which are all Filipinos. ABAC may also act as a consultant or adviser in matters regarding the entertainment strip to the Mayor’s Office. As the president of ABAC, how do you view the current attitude of the local government—Pamintuan’s administration—to the nightlife district?

Agnew: I can say that Mayor Pamintuan has a more honest stance with regards to the entertainment here. In fact, it was at his behest that our organization [ABAC] was formed. If it were not for him, for his support, we wouldn’t be here. You can say that ABAC is here to help Mayor Pamintuan implement his plan to transform Fields Avenue. Do you think Fields Avenue is going to be the next Pattaya, Thailand, as some—like Mayor Ed—envisions?

Agnew: Personally, I don’t think that Fields Avenue is ever going to be like Pattaya. We don’t have the necessary infrastructure to receive the millions of tourists like what they have in Pattaya. First and foremost, Pattaya has a beach and we don’t. I think Subic, which is just 40 minutes away, should be Angeles’ beach. For foreigners, a 40-minute trip to the beach is no time at all. But in terms of the clubs here, the entertainment here, we’re already so far advanced. Nowhere else in this country can you find something like Club Asia or Golden Nile. We’ve got world-class choreographers who’ve worked in Las Vegas to train our dancers. We’re decades ahead of the clubs in Manila and Cebu. Now, if we can only get the big name hotels here, then maybe we can reach Pattaya’s level. How is ABAC involved with the newly-formed tourist police force?

Agnew: The tourist police force is a first multiplier that is under the local PNP, that’s primarily Station 4 under Major Tan. We [ABAC] supplied their uniforms and equipment—from their PNP-issue top-quality shoes and top-class radios, cuffs and police sticks. We kitted them out at great expense, but this is a matter of sending out the right image. There is this saying that if you “look the part, you act the part.” And when tourists see these men in their confidence-inspiring uniforms, they feel more secure and safe. ABAC is not involved in the running of the tourist police force, but it is our hope that they should reduce petty crime like the snatchers, beggars, rugby boys and card sharks, and see to the “sanitation” of the tourist belt. What can you say to potential investors about the current business climate in Angeles City?

Agnew: If you’re planning to put up a bar here, I’d say—don’t. As for doing business with Filipinos, it’s all the same as in other places. There are some good ones, some bad. And in dealing with the government, of course there will be personalities. But in the end, it’s all a matter of complying with the law. That’s what we’re trying to do for bars with ABAC. We’re all for keeping things smooth. I say we shouldn’t dwell on differences. Now is the time to work for the prosperity of the tourism industry and in getting more investors from abroad to come.


To be continued...