Many of Phuket’s tourist bars could close forever unless the government provides financial aid to owners and workers, the Patong Entertainment Business Association said.
PEBA President Weerawit Kreuasombat appealed for help from Public Health Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Phisit Sriprasert during a Wednesday tour of Bangla Road. Bar workers swarmed the bureaucrat, waving handwritten signs saying “Look at us, we’re dying”, “Your Red Area, but our heart is here” and “What do we get from four months closure?”.
“Red Area” refers to the ministry’s designation of bars, pubs and clubs, which made them the last to reopen as the coronavirus epidemic eased in Thailand. Thursday marked 45 consecutive days without a locally transmitted case of Covid-19.
Weerawit said that even though bars were allowed to reopen on July 1, only about 30 in Patong have done so and even fewer have had customers after the first-night rush.
A factor keeping customers away are the oppressive set of disease-control restrictions the Health Ministry has imposed on “Red Area” businesses that kill the vibe patrons go out for. Among them are rules that forbid bottle service, close dance floors, prohibit sharing of food plates and beer towers and force all bars to close at midnight.
Phisit said his inspection found that the venues he visited were following the rules well. Of course, owners would have had to have been blind and deaf not to detect the crowd of public officials, reporters, cameras and lights coming their way.
Phisit seemed amazed however there were so many venues closed.
“Only a few establishments are open, as only a small number of tourists are coming here,” Phisit said, pointing out the obvious.
Weerawit said more could be done to liven the atmosphere on Bangla Road, such as allowing street vendors and supporting tuk-tuk and taxi drivers. He said he’s requested Patong’s mayor loosen the restrictions.
He said he also has filed a petition with the central and Phuket provincial governments for tax breaks, financial assistance and help in renegotiating rents.
Operators and staff cannot get through this crisis alone. The government must step in to help or there will be no tourist bars by the time the tourists return, Weerawit said.