TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn is planning to introduce entertainment venues in Chonburi, especially Pattaya, officially as the 11th type of business eligible for a SHA+ (Safety and Health Administration) qualification, aiming to boost the city as a ‘SHA+ City’ and a trial zone for the LEGAL reopening of the nightlife industry, which in Pattaya is considered critical to the local economy.
This would, in essence, allow the legal opening of bars, nightclubs, pubs, karaoke, gogos, and similar venues that have technically been closed nationwide by the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) since April 10th of 2021 for “Covid-19” measures. The venues have been allowed since mid-December of 2021 to open as “restaurants” temporarily with certain rules and certifications but this was always intended to be a temporary measure and entertainment business owners are now calling for legal opening.
Critics of the current “restaurant” program claim it is confusing to customers and some on social media have claimed the entire thing is essentially a giant charade or “dog and pony show”. Some critics have also said the current “grey” status of nightlife and bars only encourages corruption and rule-breaking.
The Governor chaired a meeting yesterday afternoon in Pattaya at a major hotel with dozens of local tourism associations, business owners, and clubs under a single umbrella group called ‘One Voice’ yesterday, January 30th, to seek solutions for potential legal reopening for entertainment business operators in the tourism industry in Pattaya and Chonburi.
The meeting urged the government’s consideration of including entertainment venues, including pubs, bars, karaoke lounges, nightclubs, etc. in the SHA+ qualification as the venues were also considered a part of the tourism industry. In Pattaya, according to the One Voice group, the entertainment sector is considered a “magnet” attraction, meaning that it draws the majority of visitors to the city who then spend money at numerous other businesses and sectors not connected to the nightlife industry. Pattaya depends on tourism, much of it driven by nightlife, for an estimated 80-85 percent of its GDP according to Pattaya City leaders.
One of the One Voice operator’s representatives revealed that the operators in Pattaya and Chonburi had well cooperated with the government and its measures in all dimensions in order to accelerate their business reopening after Pattaya city had been affected for more than 2 years. One Voice pointed out that the nightlife and entertainment sector had legally been closed currently for almost ten months in Thailand, and for five months before that in total during 2020 and early 2021 due to Covid-19, much more than any other sector and with very little to no financial aid or compensation.
Applying for the current ‘modified’ restaurant license properly for entertainment venues could mean that one had to go through various processes that took an extended period of time and had additional costs and financial burdens for the operators, according to local operators. Some of them remained closed as the entrepreneurs could not afford the cost of running the modified “restaurants”.
At the meeting conclusion, Governor Yuthasak promised local entrepreneurs to propose to the CCSA that entertainment establishment venues become the 11th type of establishment which would allow licensing requests of the SHA+ symbol like other tourism-related businesses. This would then allow the sector to, after close to a year, legally open.
TPN notes, however, that the notoriously cautious CCSA, run by doctors who are not involved in the tourism or nightlife industry, have been negative at every turn in terms of legally reopening the entertainment sector and the nighttime economy, continually stating it represents a major threat to the spread of Covid-19. Critics, however, have claimed the continual closure is political and tied to certain representatives in the government and CCSA who disagree in general with the nightlife, alcohol, and bar industry for various personal, religious, and conservative reasons. The CCSA claims this is not the case and they only care about the spread of Covid-19.
Yuthasak stated: “Meanwhile, we’d like to kindly ask Pattaya business operators to continue complying with current preventive measures as a role model of preventing and controlling communicable diseases as we plan Pattaya as the pilot “SHA+City” tourism model that entrepreneurs could use to have their businesses approved under the SHA+ standard.”
“It was very important to campaign on the measures while accelerating the 4th booster of Covid-19 vaccines for those eligible in the area. All of today’s conclusions would be discussed with relevant government departments for urgent action.” Yuthasak concluded.
Currently, the Thai government has given no date for a legal reopening of the entertainment and nightlife industry, leaving it in the current “grey” restaurant status. Previously proposed dates for legal bar openings in December and January were postponed by the government due to concerns around the Omicron Covid-19 variant, notes TPN media.
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