The leaders of Pattaya’s farang-orientated leisure pursuits are wrestling with the future of their chosen activity.When the pubs eventually reopen, it’s not all going to be plain sailing simply to resume where everyone left off in March.
Local golf courses, of course, have already opened their doors, howbeit with the tough health and safety regulations recently announced.But the players often begin by assembling in chatty groups in pubs early morning, then travel shoulder-to-shoulder in minibuses and frequently imbibe the amber liquidin the same hostelries during the evenings.
Pubs are even more essential to the fans of snooker, darts, quizzes and contract bridge.These indoor games are almost exclusively pub-based in Pattaya.The usual system is for the playing society to pay a nominal monthly fee, or none at all, but the management keeps the profits of food and drink sold there.
So what’s the problem once the pubs reopen?It’s that social distancing of course.These sports and leisure activities all involve close group activity and holding stuffalready touched by others, whether it be a sheet of pictures in the quiz orthe cards at the bridge table.There’s much more to these evenings than simply holding a glass and performing an activity to the best of your ability.It’s about togetherness as well as the booze.
These games absolutely promote social bonding and group solidarity whilst offering the men – as women players are a rarity at these events – an opportunity to get away legitimately from the wife or whoever.How matters would turn out once the group’s members have to sit or stand at least six feet from each other while play is in progress is not at all obvious.Many of the pubs are crowded during these team events and won’t be keen to lose income by removing tables and chairs.
Temperature testing and sanitizing fluid to check those nasal and oral droplets are alright so far as they go.But Coronavirus can be spread by snooker table cues, missiles thrown at a dartboard, quiz question papers and answer sheets, packs of cards and the plastic holding trays which are then circulated from table to table every 30 minutes or so.It is very difficult to avoid such items being touched by many different people in the course of an afternoon or an evening.
Whilst rich institutions and international corporations are already experimenting with contactless temperature guns, remote health monitoring, autonomous disinfection routines and robotic cleaners, the management of an average Pattaya pub is in no position financially to entertain such technological novelties.It was hard enough to pay the exorbitant rents and staff salaries even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Much depends on the future of the virus in Thailand generally and in Chonburi province in particular.Optimistically, if there is not a second wave of infections and an effective vaccine looks to be on the cards for next year, a combination of obvious health precautions and widely distributed disposal or washable gloves might be enough in many pubs.
Meanwhile, the leisure leaders should be considering how to run a quiz without members of the team whispering the answer in the captain’s ear, or without golfers en masse automatically shaking hands with the guywho just achieved a hole-in-one. And bridge players mustn’t any more shuffle cards already handled by several other contestants.Yes there are answers to all these dilemmas.But nobody asked them in the past.Now the pandemic is changing the agenda.