Patong bars to close July 7, Asarnha Bucha Day

PATONG, PHUKET: All entertainment venues in Patong will close on July 7 to observe the Buddhist holiday of Asarnha Bucha.

Sompetch Moosopon, president of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA), said the PEBA committee met at the Baan Sukhothai Hotel & Spa on Tuesday to discuss plans for Asarnha Bucha Day, which is a public holiday in Thailand.

It was agreed to hold merit-making ceremonies as well as a range of activities aimed at building camaraderie among the scores of people employed in the Patong nightlife entertainment industry.

“This will be the seventh consecutive year that we will close entertainment venues in Patong to give workers the chance to make merit and reflect on the importance of Buddhism. We want to establish this as a tradition for Soi Bangla and all of Patong,” he said.

Employees of over 400 entertainment venues are expected to take part, he said.

Events will kick off just after dawn, a time when many nightlife workers are normally just going to bed.

At 7am there will be an alms-offering ceremony organized by Patong Municipality, with merit-makers offering monks rice, non-perishable foodstuffs, robes and other necessities.

Financial contributions will also be accepted by the Patong Hospital Foundation, a charity set up to help poor patients pay their medical bills, he said.

The Patong Football Field on the beach road will be the focus of activity in the afternoon, when “sport color day” activities will see workers from various nightlife establishments band together into nine teams, each with a different color.

Bar boys from Soi Paradise and other sois catering to the needs of gay clientele will compete on the purple and pink teams, for example.

The wide range of competitive events will include such classics as tug-of-war and sack races. Awards will also be given to the teams with the best cheering sections.

“We want to develop harmony and give everyone a chance to have fun with one another,” Mr Sompetch said.

The merit-making and team-building activities will help create a unified spirit, helping industry workers fight together to survive during these tough economic times, he said.

The economic downturn has hit the industry hard, with the number of tourists down an estimated 50% year-on-year, Mr Sompetch said.

“I can’t predict what the situation will be like by the end of the year, but I don’t see any positive signs,” he said.

In light of the economic downturn, PEBA strongly supports extending operating hours past those currently mandated by the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

The MoI currently issues licenses under six categories depending on the nature of entertainment and services offered and whether the establishment falls inside a designated entertainment zone. Currently, the latest any nightlife venue in Phuket can legally remain open is 2am.

PEBA’s most recent bid to have operating hours extended got a cool response from Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop earlier this month.

The governor, himself an MoI appointee, said any extension must come with MoI approval.

Earlier this month, Mr Sompetch reported that the downturn had forced some 30% of the estimated 500 entertainment venues in Patong to close down or go out of business completely.

For our previous report, click here.

— Kamol Pirat

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