By The Nation
Pubs, bars and entertainment venues are among the businesses hardest hit by the virus outbreak, having remained shut for the past 75 days. However, the fourth phase of relaxed lockdown restrictions, due to start in the next few days, may allow them to reopen and so avoid closing permanently. Yet the government faces a dilemma, since the entertainment sector is a hotspot of potential contagion, given that customers who drink alcohol are likely to be lax in observing disease control measures such as social distancing.
Thanakorn Kuptajit, president of the Alcohol Beverage Business Association, said the government should relax the restrictions to enable the businesses to survive. He proposes running a trial 'reopening of hotel bars and restaurants’ alcohol service, to gauge whether the rest of the sector can safely restart operations.
He expects about half of the country’s 10,000 entertainment will shut permanently if they remain locked down for much longer, since they are making zero revenue but still paying rent and wages.
The alcohol business, made up mainly of beer, spirits and wine, is worth around Bt370 billion per year. Since the virus outbreak in February, that revenue has contracted by 40 per cent year on year after on-premises sales fell to zero.
Thanakorn also suggest that the government temporarily allow online distribution of alcohol while venues remained closed.
"Online shopping would help reduce traffic at various pubs and bars and could still be traced. However, under the current law, posting pictures and basic product information of [alcoholic products] is considered as promoting alcohol and therefore illegal. So, we want the state to be lenient about the situation," said Thanakorn.