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“It’s 3 months now, when can we reopen?” – Pattaya bar owners



Today marks 3 straight months that Pattaya’s world famous – and vitally important to the city’s economy – nightlife and entertainment industry has been shuttered by the Thai Government. The industry was originally told to close “for 2 weeks” on March 18. But as the Covid-19 crisis escalated and fear and uncertainty grew worldwide, the closure was repeatedly extended, with ever changing dates and conflicting, overlapping messages on when exactly the government would allow business to resume.

Chon Buri province had a total of 87 cases of Covid-19, virtually all imported from other provinces or overseas visitors. Of those, 41 were in Banglamung/Pattaya, the majority from the famous Bangkok “boxing stadium cluster.” There were 2 deaths, both foreign cases that were imported. Pattaya, despite its notorious nightlife industry, never had a significant local outbreak. This is in stark contrast to the resort island of Phuket, which had the highest number of cases per capita in Thailand, mainly around its notorious Bangla Road red light entertainment area and latterly around the Bang Tao district.

But the Thai Government has continued to state it’s is too risky to open nightlife, bars and entertainment venues, despite the country as a whole going well over 3 weeks without a locally transmitted case. They’ve been spooked both by the cases of infected Thais returning from overseas and the recent spate of outbreaks in entertainment zones in Seoul and Tokyo.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, has allowed nearly every type of business to resume – except the nightlife and entertainment industry. Despite early signs that they would allow owners to reopen and get tens of thousands of people back to work in Phase 4 of the program to reopen and unlock the country, nightlife was left out, and there has been no target date or guarantee of a Phase 5 from the CCSA.

Pattaya’s mayor and the governor of Chon Buri, keenly aware of Pattaya’s precarious situation, with an estimated 80% of the city’s businesses dedicated to nightlife and hospitality, have pleaded for patience from local business owners and say they’re working with the CCSA to reopen the bars. This week, The CCSA allowed the half measure of allowing alcohol in restaurants, but this only led to confusion as the large number of “hybrid” establishments that sell both food and alcohol were given mixed messages and police were instructed at a national level to raid and even close many already struggling local businesses.

The CCSA and the PM himself have also asked for patience from business owners, but for many, with 3 months without income and landlords and other creditors demanding payment, patience is running out.

The CCSA has stated a current goal of 28 days without a confirmed locally transmitted case of the virus. That would be next Monday, June 22.

They have dodged repeated questions from the press on whether that means nightlife could resume. Meanwhile, many bar owners in Pattaya continue to ask why their small establishments, many unable to fit more than a handful of people in, remain closed, lumped into the same group as massive nightclubs that can fit over a thousand people.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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