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No Singing, No Dancing, No Lady Drinks: Proposed Thailand Bar-Reopening Rules Would Gut Nightlife

Analysis: Writers of 18 proposed health restrictions straight out of 'Footloose' living in a fantasy world

No Fun Allowed Sign Thailand Bangkok Bars

Singers with face masks. Empty dance floors. No lady drinks. Thailand’s bars and clubs could look radically different when they reopen next month if the government approves 18 disease-control rules proposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The list provided to Thai-language media outlets Monday summarizes safety suggestions made during Sunday’s meeting of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s health-screening committee. Near-Draconian in scope, the prohibitions, if adopted and enforced, would gut the nightlife scene to such a point that most won’t bother going out.

But there’s no way to enforce most of them.

Among the 18 are the commonplace Covid-19 hygiene rules seen everywhere: temperature screening on entry, available hand sanitizer, masked-and-gloved staff, rigorous cleaning, spacing of tables with partitions between, and proper ventilation.

Interestingly, what’s not on that list is a requirement for customers to check in with the government’s Thai Chana contact-tracking app.

The proposals also call for capacity limits – although percentages aren’t specified – with suggestions only that there not be “overcrowding”. Queues to enter a club would have to be spaced out to enforce social distancing.

Inside the club, though, is where the rules become preposterous.

Like a scene out of “Footloose”, singing and dancing by customers would be outlawed. Groups would be limited to five people who could not stand or walk around, only sit on “chairs that cannot be moved” spaced a meter apart.

Bangkok Go-Go Bar Dancer on Stage

Ready to order? Here’s your disposable menu that only one person can touch. Want to eat? No more sharing plates. One meal per person. Bottle service? Forget it. Drinks would have to be served by the glass, by a waiter. No jugs, bottles or self-service. And no ice on the table, either.

As for entertainment, pool and darts leagues are out. And singers would have to wear face shields while standing on a stage separated from the crowd by a clear partition. No one would be allowed to sit by the stage.

Finally, in what would be a game-ender for Thailand’s go-go and hostess bars, staff would be banned from sitting with customers, finally putting an end the infamous lady drink.

Again, all of these are just suggestions, but the CCSA has a history of introducing impractical and even ridiculous rules only to backtrack or ignore them later. Recall the “ban” on popcorn and drinks at cinemas, a rule theater chains never pretended to adhere to.

Likewise, farang-centric pubs holding restaurant licenses have already resumed pool competitions with no complaints from police, so that rule is already null and void.

Certainly, the first group of standard precautions from temperature checks to masked staff, will happen. But those responsible for the in-house suggestions clearly are living in a fantasy world.

  • How do you open discos with no dancing?
  • How do you ban singing in a karaoke bar?
  • How do you forbid lady drinks and sitting with bargirls in go-go bars?
  • Finally, the rules against bottle service, standing at tables, large groups and throwaway menus gouge out the heart of the Thai-style pub scene. And how does a performer sing with a face shield on?

Thailand being Thailand, no one would be surprised if at least two-thirds of these proposed rules – if not all – are officially endorsed by the CCSA on Friday.

But, as ever in Thailand, there is the law and then there is what really happens. Don’t expect cops telling you to stop dancing and sit downin your immovable chair anytime soon.