PHUKET: Entertainment venues on the island have just a few more days to register under a new law that requires all such venues to have licenses. From January 13, owners of the venues were given 60 days to apply for licenses under the revised provisions of Section 3 of the Entertainment Act. The 60-day period expires on Friday. Wisut Romin, Deputy Secretary of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Office, told the Gazette that all venues will be covered by the various sub-sections of the revamped Section 3. After March 12, he said, any current permits or other documents will no longer be valid, though existing venues that have applied for the new licenses will be allowed to continue trading while their applications are considered. The consideration period is expected to take 60 days, after which new licenses will be issued. K. Wisut explained the different licenses as follows: Category 3 (1) covers hotels that have more than 100 guest rooms. “There are about 16 places in Phuket that qualify under section 3 (1),” K. Wisut said. “These include the Sintavee, Pearl, Merlin, and Thavorn Grand hotels in Phuket City, and others such as Le Meridien outside Patong, Club Med in Kata and The Evason in Rawai.” Category 3 (2), covering “tea shops,” is essentially a dead category in Phuket, which no longer has such places. Category 3 (3) covers massage and bathing venues outside hotels. There are three of these, two in Phuket City and one in Patong. Category 3 (4) covers most of the venues – beer bars, pubs, a-go-go bars, karaokes and so on – not covered by the previous three categories. There are about 174 in Muang District, 78 in Katu district (mostly in Patong) and 15 in Thalang, K. Wisut said. The 3 (4) license comes in a variety of different flavors to fit different circumstances. There is, for example, a subsection dealing with venues that have stage shows, such as go-go bars. Karaoke bars fall under a different subsection. There have already been grumbles from the entertainment industry that explanations of these subsections are so opaque as to be completely incomprehensible. K. Wisut admitted that it was difficult to give a full breakdown of all the subsections, but stressed that officials at District Offices understood the new system and would guide owners of venues to the appropriate subsection. New closing times are expected to be imposed in April. K. Wisut confirmed that entertainment facilities in large hotels will close at 2 am, other venues will shut at 1 am, and massage parlors will have a midnight deadline. Large hotels are apparently given the leeway to open until 2 am because – so the theory goes – they attract wealthy people and foreign tourists, not the teenagers that the Better Social Order Policy aims to protect. The closing times are not dependent on a venue’s location – whether it is inside or outside an entertainment zone. These zones in Phuket were defined six months ago as an area around Soi Bangla in Patong, along with Taina Rd in Kata. With effect from January 13, they are the only places where new entertainment venues may be opened.
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