Pattaya “restaurants” ignoring health tests on entry

Enforcement of health tests in Pattaya isn’t exactly problem-free.

Thai law is explicit. When you enter an eatery, whether one serving hearty meals or a booze bar offering stale nuts, you should prove you have had an antigen test within the last 72 hours or submit to one at the entrance administered by staff. In the optimistic words of the government-friendly Pattaya radio ad, “If they don’t ask, you walk.”

There is very little sign of walking. Soi Buakhao, the current center of Pattaya nightlife, is packed nightly with Thais, expats and tourists but no evidence of any health checks whatsoever in the venues visited. A motorbike cop parked near Tree Tops said, “That’s up to health inspectors not us, we are here to check the bars close at 11 pm.” However, the Ministry of Health doesn’t usually work after dark.

On Walking Street, a mixture of bright lights, music and derelict buildings these days, there were two voluntary “testing stations”, one charging 100 baht for a genuine ATK result, but most venues seemed unconcerned about the law. The doorman at a well-known seafood restaurant said, “We want to welcome customers, not examine their credentials.”

Offering health checks isn’t an attention grabber in Pattaya night spots.

At the Jomtien Complex, the hub of what remains of the resort’s gay scene, several bars and eateries sporting Safety and Health Authority stickers, were indeed administering customer health tests. But not all. A nearby cafe asked us to self-administer a test for 50 baht. “But don’t push the stick too far up your nose,” advised the waiter. “We don’t want to start a panic.”

Meanwhile, at a high class buffet in north Pattaya, security staff were checking that customers had brought evidence of a recent antigen test. If not, one was offered for 100 baht. A customer showed a picture of an antigen kit on his cell phone, but without any actual proof of the date it was taken. “It always works,” he said, “I use the same photo with a different date written on a card.”

“Pattaya is a city of illusion,” said long term expat Phil Ashton who works as a chef in a five star hotel, “all about appearances rather than reality,” adding that the last two years have bankrupted many Pattaya businesses and left others gasping for breath. He concludes, “A drowning man doesn’t reach for his indigestion tablets.”