Today, June 18, 2020, marks three months in a row that Pattaya’s world famous nightlife and entertainment industry has been shut by the Thai Government due to Covid-19 concerns.
The industry was originally told to close for “two weeks” on March 18, 2020.
However, as the Covid-19 situation escalated and uncertainty grew worldwide the closure was extended, with ever changing dates and messages on when exactly the government would allow business to begin again.
Chonburi ended up having a total of 87 cases of Covid-19, nearly all imported from other provinces or overseas visitors. Of those cases 41 were in Banglamung/Pattaya, the majority returning from a cluster at a boxing stadium in Bangkok.
There were two deaths, both foreign cases that were also imported. It is important to note that Pattaya, despite the notorious nightlife industry, never had a confirmed significant local outbreak.
As of this morning, Chonburi has gone 55 days without a single confirmed case of the virus….and Pattaya is ten days ahead at 65 days
However, the Thai Government has continued to state that at this time it is too risky to open nightlife, bars and entertainment, despite the country as a whole over three weeks without a locally spread case.
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, or CCSA, has allowed nearly every business type to resume business-except the nightlife and entertainment industry.
Notably, despite early signs that they would allow owners to reopen their livelihoods and get tens of thousands of people back to work this week in the so called Phase Four of a four phase program to reopen and unlock the country, nightlife was left out…and there has been no promise at this point of a Phase Five from the CCSA.
The Mayor and Governor of Chonburi, keenly aware of the unique situation Pattaya is in with an estimated eighty percent of the cities businesses dedicated to nightlife and hospitality, have pleaded for patience from local business owners and stated they are working with the CCSA to ask for bars to be allowed to open.
Pattaya, unlike most of the country, still resembles a ghost town in many areas due to the amount of entertainment venues versus other types of business. Food lines still stretch into the thousands across the city daily from those still unemployed.
This week, The CCSA allowed the half measure of drinking alcohol in restaurants but that only led to the confusion as the large amount of hybrid establishments that sell both food and alcohol were given mixed messages and police were instructed from a National level to raid and even close many local businesses already struggling.
The Thai National Government has also asked for patience from business owners in the entertainment industry but for many, with three months without an income and landlords and other debtors requiring payment, their patience is running out.
The CCSA has stated their current goal is to reach 28 days as a country without a single confirmed locally spread case of the virus. If that takes place it would be next Monday, the 22 of June. They have not, however, answered repeated questions from the press if that means nightlife can resume on this date. Doctors with the Department of Disease Control that advise the CCSA have given varied statements, with many pushing to reopen entertainment after all schools reopen across the country. Those dates vary, with some opening this week, some next week and some on July First.
The CCSA has stated they are keeping all bars closed as they are concerned with making social distancing work (which hasn’t in other countries that have re-opened nightlife) and afraid of massive crowds flocking to the establishments when open. Their fears appeared to be confirmed this week as pictures went viral from across the country, including Pattaya, of hundreds of people filling markets and restaurants to drink alcohol.
Meanwhile, many small bar owners in Pattaya continue to ask why their small establishments, many unable to fit more then a handful of people, remain closed and lumped into the same group as massive Nightclubs that can fit over a thousand people. They argue that if their smaller venues were allowed to open it would spread out the large crowds that appeared at markets and restaurants to drink.
It’s important to note that the industry goes far beyond foreign facing bars in Pattaya however, as the much bigger Thai bar and nightlife industry for Thai Nationals is also demanding to re-open, especially as there is a push for domestic tourism.
The powerful Thai Alcohol Beverage Industry, with at least one Thai billionaire part of the group, has also been pushing the government to reopen nightlife as has the Tourism Authority of Thailand, stating nightlife is critical to getting domestic tourism at full potential.
For now, the neon lights of Pattaya remain quiet and owners can only wait to be allowed to reopen.