These crackdowns are a regular annual or biannual performance in Patong, in line with the perceived understanding that the local police and bar owners are performing their usual dance around each other in the negotiations for the amounts to be paid by venue owners to allow their venues to stay open long past the legal closing times.
As most long-term residents know, these “crackdowns” are the exception to the rule that sees almost every venue in Bangla Rd open until the wee hours. As seen in practice, many venues in Patong in recent years have remained open until 4 or 5am or even all-night – the most lucrative time for selling drinks to the hordes of tourists that descend on Bangla Rd in high season.
The recent petition by the ever-hopeful Weerawit Krueasombut, President of the Patong Entertainment Business Association, and Patong scion Preechawude “Prab” Keesin to seek permission for Bangla Rd venues to legally open until 5am – if successful – would punch a big hole in whoever’s pockets profit from such entrepreneurial payments. (See story here.)
However, extended legal closing times, if enacted properly, could also break the stranglehold on the industry by corrupt officials while raising revenue for the local municipality. If a late opening licence were available – upon payment of a commercially feasible annual fee – then bar operators would happily pay. As it would simply mean paying an official fee, rather than an under the table one, for the same result.
Making late closing times legal would also likely make Patong or even Phuket posts less lucrative or sought-after sinecure for corrupt officers – and those already in place may seek alternative sources of income.
The money raised from legitimate extended-hours licence fees could be used to fix some of the very real problems the municipality needs to address, such as: installing actual working CCTV throughout the entertainment zone, paying for drain cleaning to prevent the regular wet-season floods, repair the many deathtrap holes on the footpaths and roads, pay for more tourist police patrols, and the list goes on.
Wishful thinking? Yes... but sometimes it’s nice to dream.