National Alcohol groups against extending legal nightlife closing times to 4:00 AM, heated debate begins between TAT and Alcohol control groups

Bangkok-

Several academics oppose the Tourism and Sports Minister’s idea to allow entertainment venues to remain open until 4:00 am, extending the legal closing times from Midnight to 2:00 AM currently depending on the location.

Udomsak Saengow of the Centre for Alcohol Studies is one of those suggesting that more research is needed before such a move.

“Civic groups have worked hard to limit access to alcohol and they succeeded in lobbying for shortening the closing times from 4 am to 2 am. When opening times are extended, drinking hours are also extended. The more people drink, the less they can control themselves.”

But Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn argue that extended opening hours would boost the economy and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) agrees.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn says extending opening times would increase spending, particularly when some foreign visitors find that a closing time of 2.00am is too early. He also stresses that the new opening hours would not apply everywhere.

“The 4 am closing time would be restricted to destinations which mainly cater to foreign visitors.”

But coordinator of Alcohol Watch Network, Chuwit Chantaros, disagrees that the move would help the economy, arguing that it may lead to an increase in injuries or deaths among drunk tourists. Such an increase would only end up costing businesses.

“We have research findings showing that we lose 2 baht for every one baht we gain because of property losses as well as deaths and injuries which cause further material losses. If the operating hours are extended, more losses are anticipated.”

He questioned the ministry’s claim the proposal would boost spending by at least 25%, especially among foreign tourists, and demanded proof to back the claim.

“The proposal was not carefully thought out,” he said.

“The number of tourists targeted by the extended hours is also small and some of them are troublemakers. Do we need these kinds of tourists?”

He also doubted the proposed zoning system would work, arguing that more than 600 pubs and bars have been shut down because they served underage customers.

Mr. Chuwit urged business operators to strictly comply with the alcohol control law, instead of seeking extended opening times.

But Weerawich Kruasombat, head of the Patong entertainment business operators’ union, is in favor of the move.

“For years, we have been pushing for extended closing times in the Patong and Bang La areas. These districts currently generate 20-30 million baht in income per night and the extra two hours will boost income by 30%-40%.”

Manu Khiewkhram, another business operator in Phuket, said on Wednesday the group submitted a proposal asking for the deregulation of closing hours in Patong to the tourism minister early this month.

Meanwhile, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the idea of extending opening times is meant to boost spending among foreign visitors who tend to find the 2 am closing time is too early.

Mr. Yuthasak said that based on the data on foreign tourists’ spending behaviour, each person usually spends about 5,500 baht.

The debate rages on, with interested parties in the relevant tourist areas planning to meet with the TAT to discuss the matter further.

The Governor of TAT meets local nightlife owners at City Hall on Saturday afternoon to get their thoughts. The head of a local Thai nightlife owners association said, unsurprisingly, to The Pattaya News that the local owners strongly support the decision of changing the legal closing hours in Pattaya.

Pattaya is, to the surprise of many of our readers at The Pattaya News, legally supposed to close it’s bars and nightlife between midnight to 2:00 AM depending on the area. Unofficially, staying open later is tolerated, but not legal. This is why when National police visit the city, everything normally closes by 2:00 AM.