Thailand considers alcohol ban lift to boost restaurant spirits

Image courtesy of Phuket News

The Government of Thailand is considering lifting the afternoon ban on alcohol sales to assist struggling restaurant operators amid an economic downturn. Representatives from the Restaurant Business Club submitted a letter to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, urging for measures to help restaurants survive the challenging economic climate.

Restaurant operators highlighted rising operating costs and increasing prices of ingredients as major challenges, leading to many businesses shutting down. They specifically called for the removal of a 52 year old regulation that prevents alcohol sales between 2pm and 5pm.

The Bangkok-born prime minister spoke on the matter during a Cabinet meeting at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University.

“I will consider it (the lifting of the afternoon ban on alcohol sales). The government is trying to promote tourism, hoping they will also earn more income.”

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Head of the Restaurant Business Club, Sorathep Rojpotjanaruch stressed the need for urgent relief measures to prevent further business closures. He noted that operating costs have surged by 50%, while ingredient prices, including those for milk, eggs, and vegetables, have risen by 20 to 30%. Sorathep noted the decline in customer purchasing power in recent years.

“The economy has been sluggish, and consumer purchasing power has declined. The cost and prices of ingredients, such as vegetables, have gone up, on top of expensive electricity fees.”

Halted growth

In 2019, the restaurant industry in Thailand generated an estimated 420 billion baht in combined revenue, accounting for about 7% of the gross domestic product (GDP). This revenue was initially projected to grow by another 4 to 5% this year, but growth has slowed since April, leading to more restaurant closures, said Sorathep.

“Small-scale vendors and food shops along streets are at risk of going out of business as they don’t have sufficient financial resources to stay afloat for long periods.”

In addition to lifting the afternoon alcohol sales ban, the group proposed reducing building and land tax rates to alleviate financial pressures on businesses. They also suggested measures to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as allowing customers who request tax invoices from restaurants to claim up to 20,000 baht in tax deductions, while business operators could use the bills for tax deductions of up to 100,000 baht each.

Another proposal included a cash handout of 2,000 baht per person, to be spent over three months, exclusively on food through the Pao Tang app.

The ban on retail alcohol sales between 2pm and 5pm was initially introduced by the coup regime of Thanom Kittikachorn in 1972 to prevent officials from drinking during work hours. This rule has remained in place ever since.

The Restaurant Business Club’s requests come at a crucial time, as businesses grapple with the economic impact of rising costs and declining consumer spending. The government’s consideration of these proposals could provide much-needed relief for the industry, reported Bangkok Post.

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Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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