Pattaya one tiny step nearer to 24-hours drinking

Thailand’s ancient booze restrictions are not helping the hopes to boost international tourism.

The official news that Thailand’s Eastern Aviation City, 60 kilometers from Pattaya, is to have 24-hours booze sales shouldn’t set the champagne corks popping just yet. The only part of the “City” that has actually been built is U-tapao airport, so the interior ministry’s announcement in the Royal Gazette just brings the rules into line with Bangkok’s passenger air hubs. The rest of the multi-billion baht “City”, a flagship initiative of the Eastern Economic Corridor, will take years to complete.

None the less, the booze liberalization on Pattaya’s doorstep will intensify the efforts to extend drinking time in Sin City beyond the current 2 am which, ahem, is enforced selectively. Damrongriet Pinitkarn, secretary of the lobbying group Pattaya Entertainments Association, has been campaigning vigorously to see the cash tills ringing later. The two new Move Forward MPs for Pattaya say they will lobby the new parliament as well. They all stress that the bars and clubs need to maximize their income to compensate for the ghost town reality during the pandemic. A similar campaign is on the go in Phuket.

Given that the old military-backed government and the new ruling coalition are both committed to boosting the numbers of international tourists, the case for booze-rule liberalization is overwhelming. A local MP said the most likely scenario was an extension of drinking time in nominated tourist areas throughout the country to 4 am and the abolition of the odd rule, originally introduced by a military junta in the 1970s, that restricts alcohol sales in stores and convenience shops to 11.00 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to midnight. Next year is the likely timeline. Never try to hurry the Orient.