Bars call for end to midnight closing
Nightlife venues welcome chance to reopen, but want to sell alcohol much later into the night
Vendors of alcoholic beverages and hotel and retail operators are calling for the further relaxation of nightlife entertainment rules and an extension of opening hours until 2-4am as pubs, bars and karaoke lounges struggle to survive.
Thanakorn Kuptajit, executive adviser at the Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association, said the group was grateful for the government's decision to allow entertainment venues to sell alcohol until midnight, although some regulations remain.
But he urged the government to relax other rules imposed on service providers and customers if local infections continue to wane, in order to facilitate nightlife spending by tourists.
"The extension of service hours to midnight is unlikely to be enough to bring nightlife business back to normal," Mr Thanakorn said.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday decided to allow bars, pubs and karaoke clubs to reopen in some regions from next month, ending a shutdown that has lasted more than a year.
Popular tourist destinations including Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chon Buri are among the 31 provinces classified as green and blue zones, where pubs, bars and karaoke lounges can serve alcohol until midnight from June 1.
The Thailand Pass requirement remains for tourists, but is waived for Thai nationals returning to the country. Unvaccinated foreign tourists who test negative on rapid antigen tests upon arrival will be allowed to skip quarantine.
According to Mr Thanakorn, apart from the nightlife sector, the government should accelerate the revitalisation of the domestic economy by increasing consumer spending for daytime businesses.
The government should revise laws deemed obstacles to doing business during the daytime, including those that prohibit alcohol sales between 2pm and 5pm, because this affects hotel and retail operators, he said.
"It will be much better if the government shifts to enforcing the laws, with higher punishments for people who drive after drinking," said Mr Thanakorn. "It is impractical to prohibit sales of alcoholic drinks in supermarkets and online channels."
Take more risks
Phisut Sae-Khu, president of the Thai Hotels Association's eastern chapter, said the government must take more risks, not only to revive night entertainment venues, but also in extending operating hours until 2-4am to stimulate the economy, as most tourists visit Pattaya to enjoy nightlife activities.
He said the nighttime economy is the city's signature appeal and should not be blamed for infections.
The government has enforced preventive measures and ensured that each operator complies with the rules, rather than limiting opening times, said Mr Phisut.
As the daily infection total has improved and the country aims to move forward by declaring the virus endemic, he said life has to return to normal.
"The country needs to bring back tourists amid heated competition from other destinations. The remaining barriers have to be dropped as soon as possible to make tourists feel truly welcome," Mr Phisut said.
He said if Thais returning home are exempted from Thailand Pass registration, all arrivals should be afforded the same standard to create a seamless travel experience for tourists. Even though the system has been simplified, Thailand Pass registration could have a psychological impact on tourists, leading them to choose other countries that have fewer travel conditions.
End the decree
Somphol Tripopnart, chief shopping centre business officer at mall operator MBK Plc, said the government's decision is expected to help the company's business, which has already been adjusted for eating and drinking venues.
He said the extension of service hours until midnight should help raise spending from both Thai and foreign tourists, particularly independent travellers.
"It would be more useful if the government dismisses some emergency decrees regarding Covid-19. Foreign tourists have already gone through various health-check measures before entering Thailand," said Mr Somphol.
"The best would be the reclassification of Covid-19 as an endemic disease before the target date of July 1."