Although nightlife and entertainment venues still officially remain closed, alcohol restrictions for restaurants have continued to be reduced across Thailand. However inconsistency in the allowed serving hours and impractical zoning has led to dismay by restaurateurs trying to remain lawful.
The Muang district in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is the latest to receive the green light, designated a Blue Zone pilot tourist area and now able to serve alcohol in restaurants until 9 pm each night.
Pattaya’s Provincial Communicable Disease Committee issued also an order permitting restaurants and hotels with Safety and Health Administration Plus (SHA Plus) certification to serve alcoholic beverages. In this case the hours are from 11 AM to 2 PM and 5 PM to 11 PM.
In Chiang Mai the province’s Governor has been granted permission to drink in restaurants in Chom Thong, Doi Tao, Mae Taeng, Mae Rim, and Muang districts. Just like the new rules for Pattaya, restaurants in Chiang Mai will be allowed to sell drinks from 11 am to 2 pm and again from 5 pm to 11 pm. Bad luck if you were planning a late lunch!
The prohibition between 2 PM and 5 PM coincides with the longstanding law forbidding alcohol sales at convenience stores between these hours, a law which the Tourism Minister says he doesn’t understand and is ‘’like lying to yourself, because those who want to drink can buy and stock up.”
The cutoff time for alcohol sales at restaurants in Bangkok will be pushed from 9pm to 11pm.
The ‘restaurant only’ rule recently led to a charity event at a five-star resort ballroom in Bangkok changing venues. The management stated that the planned banquet in the resort ballroom, even with restricted numbers and spacing arrangements, would be unable to serve wine with the dinner.
In Prachuap Khiri Khan and Cha-Am districts the allowed hours are until 10 PM. However of more consternation is the zone areas which coincide with the municipal districts of Hua Hin, Nong Kae and Cha-Am.
A dilemma is facing the organisers of a charity golf event where the course, but not the same management’s resort, is several kilometres outside the Hua Hin zone. The last we heard the organisers were planning to provide ‘take-away’ drinks to the golfers on course, but not at the presentation dinner.
A visiting French tourism group, followed by a delegation from a visiting Chamber of Commerce members, were both were able to look, but not taste the wine at the Hua Hin Monsoon Valley vineyard. They would have been able to test the local wine at the management’s Wine Bar downtown later.
In these two examples it is clear that the municipal boundary rule doesn’t match social norms and discriminate against some venues generally recognised as Hua Hin attractions.
If the reduction in restrictions must be limited to zones rather than to all the province, there may be no simple solutions. It may also be noted that the zones now operating were part of proposals championed by the Hua Hin Recharge Project, some say without sufficient consultation with those now affected.
Solutions put forward include increasing the area by making the western border be the main Cha-Am to Pranburi bypass road. But in Cha-Am that would still not include restaurants at the Royal Springfield Country Club and Lakeview Golf Course amongst others or the Monsoon Vally Vineyard. Alternatively, some suggest a limited radius (20 kilometres?) of the city centres.
Another suggestion is that restaurants (with SHA PLUS accreditation) within 10 kilometres of the border be able to receive dispensation by making a special application.
Time will tell how long these problems will continue. In the meantime, officials will need to confront the issue of venues with a restaurant licence which are really bars and other situations where the rules will be ‘bent’.
When it comes to enjoying a social drink or two with friends, where there’s a will, there’s usually a way!