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Saturday, December 10, 2022

The alcohol ban is expected to pull Thailand’s reopening further into the slump

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With Thailand’s reopening on Nov. 1 fast approaching, Thai companies are calling on the government to lift all restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the country as soon as possible. They advise that the nightlife for which millions of people to Thailand before the Covid-19 pandemic will be further damaged by the long alcohol ban

In addition, they warn that reopening without nightlife will discourage people from visiting the kingdom and will take them to other holiday destinations where they can find entertainment in the evenings.

The nearly 18-month nightmare of Covid-19 closing borders to nearly all international travel is finally easing for many businesses hoping next month tourism will slowly rise to the 40 million international visitors Thailand had in 2019 before the pandemic. But the ordeal will still drag on for nightlife and entertainment venues such as bars, pubs, clubs and karaoke shops that still can’t legally reopen.

In April, the government tried to stop the spread of Covid-19 by closing bars and entertainment venues where drinking alcohol easily leads to easing of caution and safety measures and often results in a complete lack of social distancing.

But as the country has adopted a ‘learn to live with it’ approach to Covid19 and is opening the doors to vaccinated travellers from 46 countries as it reopens next week, alcohol and nightlife outlets are scrambling to survive.

Some bars turn into restaurants, whipping up some menu items to allow them to reopen. But many seem to serve “special” soft drinks and coffee and allow customers to drink alcohol discreetly and sometimes not so discreetly. Police often turn a blind eye until reports at the police station and incidents cause a black eye instead, prompting raids at locations they’d rather say they weren’t aware of – such as bars across the street from the police station in Patong, Phuket, or clubs in Koh Samui that drank openly on the street and became super spreader hotspots with nearly 200 cases traced directly to them.

The curfew has been lifted for 17 provinces targeting reopening, but Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the reopening of alcohol and nightlife will not be considered until December 1. Members of the opposition’s Move Forward Party said a dry reopening will further damage Thailand’s reputation and be unsuccessful as arriving travelers will be angry at the lack of entertainment and nightlife.

The chairman of the Thai hotel association agreed, saying that alcohol is not just for hard-core partygoers, but is a natural part of relaxing on vacation in many cultures. She suggested allowing the drinking of alcohol in hotels as a starting point, while others suggested reopening socially distancing bars.

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