Speaking at the first meeting of the “Pattaya Model” board, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome dashed the last hopes of bar owners and party lovers hoping to see closing times pushed back this season to as last as 4:30 a.m. when he said the draft plan will take a year to complete and even longer for the Cabinet to debate and approve.
Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome will lead a panel of officials who will devise a plan to cover all aspects of late night entertainment in Pattaya.
Spearheaded by the National Counter Corruption Commission - whose criticism of the Pattaya Police Department’s lax enforcement of national bar-closing times prompted a November crackdown - the new zoning plan is being eyed as a possible model for tourist-centric cities around the country. It would not only cover operating hours, but business zoning, tax collection, security, and advertising.
Even the usually taboo subject of under-the-table payments to police officers is being discussed.
Publicly acknowledging the illegal “tea money” bar owners pay to police to stay open past legal closing times and put on nude shows, the mayor said the goal to make the bribes legal, with bar owners tipping off officials on competitors breaking the law and paying into a fund to have regulators enforce them.
“This will reduce the police department’s obligation to control the bars and focus more on other burdens,” Itthiphol said. “It also generates confidence in tourists regarding the safety of life and property as well.”
With such a sweeping scope, the draft plan runs the risk of never being completed, both because of the difficulty of re-regulating so many matters and winning agreement of so many agencies affected.
Sitting on the “Pattaya Model” board are the mayor, Banglamung District Chief Mongkol Thamakittikhun, Pattaya Secretary-General Sunthorn Rattanawaraha, Police Superintendent Nanthawut Suwanla-Ong, Pattaya Entertainment Association President Bandit Siritanyong and representatives from government offices regulating taxation, immigration, hotels, the media, labor, public health and welfare.
Despite this autumn’s string of street protests by bar owners, operating hours appear now to be a minor consideration in the overall plan. The issue Itthiphol stressed most was revenue collection. Entertainment venues generate a lot of revenue and public officials believe the government is not getting its fair cut.
Collection of labor taxes and excise duties on beverages and food will be among the nine matters focused on by the draft plan, advertising and signage, which also generates tax revenue, are two more. Other items on the agenda are zoning permits, noise pollution, security, the “appropriateness” of shows and operating hours round out the list.
The current system, Itthiphol said, has to change. The city is a hodge-podge of zoning conflicts which only leads to conflict with police and government officials, as well as between business owners.
The hope is that if the draft plan is successful, it can be used in Phuket, Chiang Mail and other locations, he said.