Pattaya bars and clubs face a bleak re-opening

Heavy restrictions on bars might mean that people won’t bother to turn up.
Heavy restrictions on bars might mean that people won’t bother to turn up.

The excitement that the government may allow niteries to open their doors on July 1 has been water-doused by some of the proposed regulations to minimize the chances of Covid-19 spreading once again. A principal grievance is that restaurants – already reopened and allowed to serve alcohol with meals – appear to have more flexibility than that envisaged for bars and clubs.

A Pattaya Walking Street operator Samroy Saetang said, “We are being told that clubs must serve drinks only in glasses and not in bottles, but restaurants are not under such a restriction. Also bar games such as pool and darts are banned outright for us, but not necessarily if you have a restaurant licence.”

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He added that social distancing rules, such as the prohibition on dancing and limiting groups to five persons, might mean that people won’t bother to turn up. Several bar owners agreed. Ken Alderton, whose wife May runs a small bar on Pattaya’s Dark Side, said, “The ban on games means that trivial pursuits quizzes are prohibited, but our customers come for the company and the group activity and not just to consume alcohol.”

Given that Thailand has not seen a case of the coronavirus being spread domestically for almost a month, proprietors of bars and clubs were hoping for a less restrictive list of prohibitions. Another difficulty for bars and clubs is that some of the rules are vague, for example the proposed ban on customers mingling or wandering and a prohibition on “singing”.

But the principal confusion is that activities are permitted or banned simply on the basis of whether the premises hold a restaurant licence or not issued by the Department of Provincial Administration. In recent days, the owners of many small bars have been trying to change their licence at short notice to allow them more flexibility. This is very difficult to achieve as there are a host of regulations and health and safety checks associated with formal permission to serve food.

The hope now is that the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), scheduled to meet later this week to consider the fifth phase of coronavirus restrictions, will appreciate that the discrimination and confusion already created is bad for business and will likely lead to confrontation when law enforcement officers undertake an inspection. The result is decidedly Not Entertainment.