PATONG: The embattled bar owners of Patong appear to have won a reprieve from the enforcement of the 2 am closure law after putting intense pressure on the government, both locally and in Bangkok. The bar owners gathered this evening in the Pasha discotheque on Soi Sunset. There, the Mayor of Patong, Pian Keesin, announced that a tacit agreement had been reached that bars in Patong may stay open until 5 am, but at 4 am must close their doors, turn off their neon signs and turn down the music. Sakorn Cheua-yuan, secretary to Member of Parliament Chalermlak Kebsab, stressed that bars caught contravening any of five laws could expect no help from the rest of the bar-owning community. These laws were those covering the sale of drugs, admitting minors, allowing guns on the premises, playing music too loudly and allowing lewd entertainment. He emphasized that the laws on drugs and admitting minors were particularly important. K. Pian explained that the leaders of the protest, including himself, Patong Councillor Chaiya Tamchu, Pasha owner Chairat Sukbal and K. Sakorn would be visiting the bars frequently to discuss any problems the owners may have. He said that all five met this morning with two of Phuket’s vice-governors, Amnuay Sanguannam and Wittaya Pintapaet; Deputy Provincial Police Chief Col Pongsak Na-Nakhorn; Patong Police Chief Col Paween Pongsirin; and Kathu District Chief Sutin Uthaitamrong. At the meeting the five were told that although they could expect nothing on paper permitting the bars to open late, the crackdown would nevertheless be relaxed. The agreement by the authorities to “close one eye” is expected to last until proposed new zoning legislation can be passed by parliament – legislation that is widely expected to include a relaxation of the closing hours. This morning, Provincial Governor Pongpayome Vasaputi told the Gazette that there had been a drop in the number of road accidents, fights and drunken incidents since the 2 am closure was enforced. “I’m concerned about the effect on business [owners’ profits], but they should accept that there have also been many benefits. “I don’t think we should change the law,” he added. “Instead, we should try to change the tourists’ behavior.” The enforcement of the law requiring entertainment venues to close at 2 am has hurt Phuket’s boisterous after-hours recreation capital. One foreign bar owner, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Gazette that his turnover had fallen 20% since strict enforcement began about two weeks ago. K. Chairat, who also owns the Safari and Pow-wow pubs, and who has been a prominent leader of the protests, said, “We estimate the losses to Patong have been about 20 million baht a night.” The pressure on the authorities included a mass closure of bars last night and today, and large open-air protest meetings at Loma Park last night and this afternoon. There is considerable bitterness against establishments that did not join the protest. Those at this afternoon’s assembly repeatedly cheered calls for a boycott of the Shark and VIP discos, which stayed open last night. One speaker, armed with a bundle of incense sticks, led the assembly in making a pledge to “29 gods in heaven” not to support Shark in any way. K. Sakorn later told the meeting at Pasha, “The last thing you must remember is Shark. Shark is the biggest entertainment place in Patong, but they did nothing to help. We should all stick together. Shark is no shark. Don’t go into Shark.”
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