PATONG: From March 1, bars and entertainment venues on Phuket will have to close at 1 am, an hour earlier than they do at present. The early closing edict was decided at a meeting of the Cabinet in Bangkok yesterday. The decision effectively designates the entire island as one large entertainment zone, leaving people in the after-dark industry exasperated and angry at the national government’s move to curtail trading hours. While Phuket escaped the midnight closure that will be enforced on some other parts of the country, Patong Entertainment Business Association President Somphet Moosopon was dismayed. He told the Gazette from Bangkok – where he had been lobbying against a change – “We have to do something. We will discuss this when I get back to Phuket tomorrow.” One angry entertainment business owner told the Gazette today that the government’s move was a blow to the tourism industry. “Closing at 2 am is already a pain for us. Closing at 1 am will bring slow death. It affects not only the entertainment business; it also affects hotels, motorcycle taxis, souvenir shops and so on,” he said. “Why don’t they just close Patong down? “I don’t understand the government. They have concluded that all parts of Thailand are the same, which is simply not the case. “Patong is a place for foreigners – Thai students can’t afford Patong,” he said, referring to the stated aim of the earlier closing hour – to shield young Thai people from sin. Wisut Romin, Deputy Secretary of Phuket Provincial Administrative Office, told the Gazette that officials will meet representatives of the entertainment industry soon. “We have a plan to follow so that they understand government policy in Phuket,” he said, adding, “We know that they are not happy with this policy because it’s not good for their businesses.” Meanwhile, the Cabinet is looking at another plan – to introduce a curfew for youngsters. The plan requires everyone under the age of 18 to stay at home after 10 pm unless accompanied by an adult.
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