Public hearings and some regulation amendments will be needed before night entertainment venues in key tourist districts can stay open until 4am, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wants opening hours extended as part of the government's economic stimulus efforts for the coming high tourist season. The ministry is still exploring ways to find the fastest and most convenient way to implement the policy by Dec 15, Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Chon Buri are among the provinces where opening hours will be extended, he said. Regulations on what times alcohol can be sold will possibly have to be amended to allow such beverages to be served during the extended opening hours, he added.
More importantly, a public hearing will also have to be staged in target areas to gauge opinions of all parties concerned before the government can extend the opening hours, he said.
Currently, the alcohol control law only allows Type 1 night entertainment businesses to continue selling alcohol up until midnight, while restaurants which do not have live music can serve alcohol while they remain open, he said.
"The ministry was studying whether it would be possible to bypass the amendment procedures and other relevant regulations which might take a long time to accomplish, meaning the Dec 15 deadline would likely be missed," Mr Anutin said.
He admitted the new policy has both advantages and disadvantages, as well as plenty of supporters and opponents.
Sanga Ruengwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Businesses Association, meanwhile, said it wouldn't make sense and be impractical for the government to allow opening hours to be extended until 4am yet not allow the alcohol sale time to be extended too.
That won't lead to tourists spending more as expected by the government as most foreigners who visit a nightclub normally order individual drinks, one after another, unlike Thai clubbers who like to buy a bottle of spirits to drink until closing time, said Mr Sanga.
Pheu Thai Party list-MP Chalerm Ubumrung, however, voiced opposition to extending opening hours for night entertainment venues, saying foreign tourists come to Thailand for its natural beauty, historic sites and food, not a night out, which they can find in their own countries.