Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul issued a clarification on Tuesday, saying that nightspots in the four areas where opening hours will be extended will be able to serve alcohol until 4am under their existing licences.
Mr Anutin earlier said although bar opening hours in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri and Phuket would be extended until 4am, alcohol sales times would not be extended. His remarks drew criticism from nightspot operators.
“I might have been a little wrong, because I talked about several issues. Entertainment venues can stay open until 4am and can sell alcohol under their existing licences,’’ the minister said on Tuesday.
Entertainment venues inside hotels could also stay open until 4am. The Department of Provincial Administration director-general would give further details about it, Mr Anutin said.
However, restaurants could serve alcohol only until midnight, he said.
Sanga Ruengwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Businesses Association, had earlier expressed his disappointment that the government’s policy to extend opening hours of entertainment venues in Bangkok, Chon Buri, Phuket and Chiang Mai until 4am did not include extending hours for the sale of alcoholic beverages.
He saw it as contradictory to stimulating tourism, saying it would not lead to increased tourist spending. He said the drinking behaviour of foreign tourists differed from that of Thai clubbers, who liked to buy a bottle of spirits, with mixers, and drink it until closing time. Foreigners usually ordered single drinks, one after the other, he said.
If entertainment venues could not serve alcohol during the extended hours, there was no point in extending opening hours, he said.
The government had never invited any nightspot operators to give their views on the matter, even though they were the major stakeholders, Mr Sanga said.
The Thai Restaurant Businesses Association echoed Mr Sanga’s view that it was impractical to allow longer opening hours yet not also allow alcohol sales until the extended closing time of 4am. The association also pointed out the different drinking habits of foreigners and Thais.