Grumbling Patong closes earlier

PATONG: More than 200 entertainment places in Patong are closing earlier, in the wake of a new order from the Interior Ministry.

The order means that many venues that previously could stay open until 2 am now have to close at 1 am, and in some cases, midnight, although the closing time on New Year’s Eve will, as before, be 6 am on January 1.

Businesses in the “entertainment zone” – which includes Soi Bangla, Thaweewong Rd, Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd and Sainamyen School intersection – are, in general, allowed to stay open longer than businesses outside it. However, most of the entertainment places in Patong lie within this zone.

The order came into effect last Friday, but the President of Patong Entertainment Association, Sompetch Moosopon, told the Gazette that most bar owners reluctantly fell into line with it from Tuesday.

K. Sompetch complained that even the previous closing time of 2 am had been too early for most people, as many tourists only began their nights out at midnight or 1 am. The association was appealing to the Interior Ministry to reconsider the order before the start of the tourism high season.

He said, “Most of the problems the government is trying to solve through this closing time policy – involving youths, drugs, lewd shows or the mafia – do not exist in Patong. The police officers look after this area well already.”

Leading businessman Chairat Sukbal, who owns the Safari Pub, told the Gazette that 99% of his customers were not Thai teenagers, but tourists, and they were struggling to come to terms with the new policy. It could also discourage investment in Patong, he said.

“Having to close at 2 am was bad enough. Now our businesses are going to be even worse off.

“We have 24 hours in a day, but if we get revenue for only an hour or two a day, who will come to invest in this area?

“Patong is where the money comes in. How can people earn a living if the closing times are 1 am and midnight? I stand firm against this. This will not support tourism but will make tourists leave.”

The streets may be quieter once the bars had closed, K. Chairat said, but after closing hours he had seen tourists walking along the beach or sitting on the pavement, because there was nowhere for them to go, and nothing for them to do.

He continued, “I guarantee that this will not only affect the bar owners but all businesses here including hotels, restaurants, tuk tuk drivers and even merchants in Phuket City.“

Wisut Romin, Deputy Secretary of the Phuket Provincial Administration Office (PPAO) said people would get used to the new opening hours. If Phuket sought to be exempt from such laws because of tourism, he added, other tourist destinations such as Samui and Chiang Mai would plead for exemption too.

The new closing times are as follows. More information on how venues are categorized may be found here.

– Opening and closing time for venues in category 3 (1), “dancing places”, such as discotheques and ram wong: in the entertainment zone, 9 pm to 2 am; outside the entertainment zone, 9 pm to midnight.

– Venues in 3 (3) (massage parlours): in the entertainment zone, from noon to midnight; outside the entertainment zone, from 6 pm to midnight.

– Venues in class 3 (4), (“entertainment venues”), places selling food (maybe) and alcohol and offering some form of entertainment, whether that be a show performed for customers, or allowing customers to sing or dance: in the entertainment zone, 6 pm to 1 am, outside the zone, 6 pm to midnight.

– Venues in category 3 (5), restaurants that provide entertainment and close after midnight (primarily upmarket venues with cultural shows) can open between 6 pm and 1 am.

Phuket News
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