Alcohol ban predicted to damage Thailand’s reopening, reputation

PHOTO: Businesses believe the alcohol ban will hurt Thailand's reopening and reputation. (via

With Thailand’s November 1 reopening fast approaching, Thai businesses are calling on the government to quickly lift all the restrictions on alcohol sales in the country. They advise that the nightlife that millions flocked to Thailand for before the Covid-19 pandemic, is being destroyed by the long-term closures. Furthermore, they warn that reopening without any nightlife will discourage people from visiting and drive them to other holiday spots where they are allowed to go out at night.

The nightmare of nearly 18 months of Covid-19 closing the borders to nearly all international travel is finally winding down for many businesses who are hopeful that next month will see tourism numbers begin their slow ascent 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 like bars, pubs, clubs, and karaoke shops who still can’t legally reopen.

In April the government attempted to stop the spread of Covid-19 by shuttering bars and entertainment venues where drinking alcohol easily leads to relaxing of caution and safety measures and often results in a complete lack of social distancing. But now even as the country has adopted a “learn to live with it” approach to Covid-19 and is flinging open the doors to vaccinated travellers from 46 countries in next week’s reopening, alcohol and nightlife venues are trying anything to survive.

Some bars are converting to restaurants, whipping up some menu items to be allowed to reopen. But many seem to be serving “special” sodas and coffees, sneaking customers alcohol discreetly and sometimes not so discreetly. Police have often turned a blind eye until news reports and incidents instead create a black eye, prompting raids of venues they claim they were unaware of – like bars across the street from the police station in Patong, Phuket, or clubs in Koh Samui that drank openly on the street and became superspreader hotspots with nearly 200 cases directly traced to them.

Curfew will be lifted for 17 provinces that are focused on reopening, but alcohol and nightlife reopening won’t be considered until December 1, according to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. Members of the opposition Move Forward Party said a dry reopening will further damage Thailand’s reputation and not be successful as arriving travellers will be angry at the lack of entertainment and nightlife.

The president of the Thai Hotels Association agreed, saying that alcohol is not just for hard partiers but, in many cultures, it’s a natural part of relaxing on holiday. She suggested allowing drinking alcohol in hotels as a starting point, while others suggested reopening socially distanced bars.

SOURCE: The Guardian

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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