Thailand

Cabinet seems to have ignored 4am nightlife proposal

PHOTO: The 4am curfew was overlooked in the Cabinet meeting, while nightlife venues and taxis propose ideas to make it safer. (via Flickr www.bryanthatcher.com)

It seems that the push for 4am closing times for nightlife venues is meeting stiff opposition. But entertainment venues aren’t giving up, offering new arguments and proposing plans to solve the points of contention. Meanwhile, the briefing released after a Cabinet meeting yesterday that was expected to discuss the curfew extension did not make any mention of the 4am proposal.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has been pushing the proposal, with the support of many politicians including the Minister of Tourism and Sports Pipat Ratchakitprakarn. They say that their studies talking to nightlife business owners found that most say their best revenue comes between 2am and 4am. Foreigners often start their nights out between 10 and 11pm and 2am is the peak time when clubs are the busiest.

Closing early pushes drunks out on the street who are looking for opportunities to keep partying. For foreigners on holiday, 2am is just too early to go to bed. Officials predict that sales could increase by 30% if nightlife entertainment venues were allowed to stay open until 4am.

Entertainment venues are particularly miffed at the early closing times now, as foreigners from around the world are looking to watch the World Cup in a social setting. Many of the games begin at 2am and bar patrons are frustrated getting kicked out right as the game they’re waiting to see is getting underway.

Proponents of the plan for later club nights say that they could be focused on popular tourist party areas like Pattaya’s Walking Street, Bangla Road in Phuket, and Khao San Road, Soi Cowboy, and Soi Patpong in Bangkok.

But opponents, including the Accident Reduction Network Office and even the Department of Disease Control, say that the health risks – and especially the risk of drunk driving – are not worth the extra revenue generated. They also warned that early risers, workers and morning markets may be perturbed by drunken clubgoers stumbling home. Opponents claim even if the 4am curfew was extended only in party nightlife tourist areas, drunk driving accidents could increase 5-fold or even tenfold.

Business owners in the entertainment venue districts are questioning those statistics though. And they do have a good point: the overwhelming majority of tourists don’t drive. They don’t believe that the risk of drunk driving accidents would be that much higher, and they further asserted that the later hours would actually bring customers to late-night eateries and taxi drivers collecting drunks and shepherding them to their hotels.

The president of the Khao San Road Business Association supports extended nightlife hours to 4am and offered to help facilitate measures to counter fears of drunk driving accidents. He suggested that having entertainment districts that are open later would round up drunks in the one area where checkpoints can easily be set up. Also, taxi services and public transportation could be ready to prevent drinking and driving.

That idea has won the support of the Thai Public Taxi Association according to The Phuket News. They said taxis are ready to follow new regulations and later nightlife curfew. They could use the extra revenue like many to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of tourist customers. After many had to partition their cars and cart around Covid patients to get fares during the pandemic, picking up drunks at nightlife venues at 4am might be a welcomed change of pace.

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.