One might be able to rationalize how a Soi 7 beer bar offering up quick-slop Thai food could be considered a restaurant, but in what world is the 808 disco a restaurant?

Welcome to Pattaya December 2021, where Walking Street’s 808 and Candy Shop nightclubs and indoor, air-conditioned Tantra a-Go-Go, Soi 7 & 8, and a Soi 6 brothel can all reopen, even though bars, nightclubs and other nightlife entertainment remains officially closed until at least Jan. 16.

It should be no surprise that a big chunk of Pattaya’s naughty nightlife is reopening – more bars every night – since all of Phuket is now thumping, with fully nude women cavorting on sofas (but not dancing on stage) in the go-go bars off Soi Bangla and hundreds of bargirls plying their trade at beer stalls in Bangkok’s Soi 7 complex.

It took a while for Pattaya to get its alcohol (and mojo) back, but Sin City quickly is making up for lost time.

Let’s just admit it: The national nightlife-closure rule is a farce. Only the largest nightclubs – think big Thai discos in Bangkok’s RCA complex, the high-end “gentlemen’s clubs” where Thailand’s coronavirus third wave began, the farang discos like those on Soi 11 and the giant soapy massage parlors – are about the only things still closed. Oh, except for smaller bar whose owners don’t have the money to bribe Thailand’s corrupt-to-the-core police force.

The pretense being used to reopen bars when bars are supposed to be closed is the restaurant license, a document so easy to get all one needs is a fire extinguisher and a grease trap on the sink. A kitchen is not even required, a convenient caveat for Pattaya’s Soi 7 & 8 beer bars and Bangkok’s red-light zones, where go-go bars with outside seating have reopened as “restaurants”.

With the restaurant license in hand, next up is the SHA (Bangkok and Phuket) or SHA+ (Pattaya) sticker, which requires only that there be a bottle of hand sanitizer around, tables be spaced a meter apart (only when inspectors are there) and someone has a thermometer. In the case of SHA+, which oddly was required from the get-go in Pattaya, all employees must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Restaurants were allowed to reopen and serve alcohol elsewhere last month with only the vanilla SHA sticker. The sticker, of course, can only be obtained from one source, who is now making a mint on printing.

A go-go bar on Pattaya’s Soi 6 led the way in that brothel street reopening. (Photo: @PattayaNewsFlas on Twitter)

Sticker-makers, police, health inspectors… basically every Thai with the slightest connection to the nightlife industry has their hands out. It’s increasingly clear the only reason the official bar-closure order remains in place is to enrich corrupt cops and public administrators who had their gravy train derailed for eight months.

Should we blame the bar owners? Certainly, the first ones to open, yes. Were they too good to play by the same rules as everyone else? But now, with the floodgates open, you can’t fault those jumping on the bandwagon.

No, the fault lies squarely with the failed government of Prayut Chan-o-cha, a gang of military stuffed shirts who know less about managing a pandemic than they do the economy.

Making rules and laws is the government’s right, whether people like them or not. But if those rules and laws aren’t going to be enforced equally, then they should be removed entirely.

The police clearly have no incentive to enforce the law, and the government seems uninterested in having them do so. So just end the artifice. Either close everything down until Jan. 16 or open it all up now. This half-assed attempt at “disease control” is a joke.