Thailand’s nightlife can officially open from Wednesday but this will be too late for many businesses

Warnings yesterday from the Thai government health officials as they urge business operators of Thailand’s nightlife – bars, karaoke bars, clubs and the larger massage premises – to “follow strict precautions” against Covid when they re-open next month. That’s next Wednesday.

We’ll get back to the absurdity of that warning a bit later.

31 Thai provinces, 14 now reclassified as green zones and another 17 described as blue zones, will be allowed to open and operate, serving alcohol, officially, until midnight. But they won’t be able to hold promotional activities, according to the CCSA. Will that include posting pics on social media?

So that’s some 31 provinces, out of Thailand’s 77 provinces, that will be able to reopen from next Wednesday, as far as the guidelines from the CCSA are concerned. But some locations, like Samut Sakhon just south west of Bangkok, Khon Kaen, a major population hub in the north east, Sakon Nakhon and Roi Et, are exempt from this official opening.

Now the same spokesperson also announced at the same meeting, presumably with a totally straight face, that some venues have already reopened despite the ban still applying for bars to stay closed. And she warned that those premises will be closed again if patrons are found to test positive to Covid-19. She appeared a little surprised.

We assume that these decision-makers in the CCSA never leave their committee room because the reality is well ahead of their announcements on this one. With a few legal loopholes and accommodating constabulary, and desperate businesspeople who just wanted to get their staff back to work, some bars in the most popular areas visited by travellers (say Pattaya, Patong, Patong, Nana and Soi Cowboy to name just a few) have been back open, some times well past midnight, for months.

Luckily, many of these businesses that were able to pry open their doors were able to take advantage of a flush of travellers coming in after the April 1 cancellation of Covid testing for international arrivals. There was also Songkran and a couple of long weekends that fuelled a travel splurge to help businesses in the hospitality industry, and the bars that did open, with some well-received respite.

But the official opening of Thailand’s nightlife next Wednesday also comes at a time when the monsoon is now starting to kick in for the year and the passenger arrivals are starting to level off after the early-April surge. Rising fuel prices and inflation are also kicking up the cost of travel, including flights into Thailand. Even the cost of delivering the barrels of beer to your favourite bar are rising.

Assuming that no one has been wearing masks in these nightlife zones for months now, the prospect of lifting mask-wearing rules in the middle of next month, will do little help the situation either.

A casual walk around Phuket’s Patong Beach streets yesterday proved that Thailand’s tourist spots still have a very long way to go to recover and that many shops remain shuttered. Speaking to 4 bar owners around Thailand last night, from around the country, the story was much the same.

And the international destinations, where much of the current tourist traffic is coming from, appear less inclined to swing their legs under a bar stool and chat to the staff.

Finally, we should recall that, since April 1, the numbers of daily reported Covid cases has fallen sharply, despite the Songkran traffic, despite many of the tourist enclave bars opening, and despite the two long weekends when Thais were travelling. Not only dropped, but dropped by some 80%. So any excuses to maintain residual Covid restrictions are becoming increasingly thin on the ground.

So celebrate the official reopening on June 1 with a drink at your local pub. They’ve got a long and difficult road ahead. Cheers.

OpinionThailand News

Tim Newton

Tim joined The Thaiger as one of its first employees in 2018 as an English news writer/editor and then began to present The Thaiger's Daily news show in 2020, Thailand News Today (or TNT for short). He has lived in Thailand since 2011, having relocated from Australia.

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