Pubs, bars and clubs in Patong’s nightlife district, if allowed to reopen at all, will reopen regardless whether or not they can implement all the rules (*see below), PEBA President Weerawit Kreuasombat told The Phuket News today.
The 22 rules were leaked to the public yesterday as a draft list to be presented to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok, which is expected to announce its decision on Friday (June 26) on whether or not to allow entertainment venues to reopen.
Among the rules are that all staff must wear face masks and face shields, but performers may wear face shields only. No bottles are to be served, all drinks must be served in glasses. No pool table games (including snooker and billiards) and no playing of darts are to be allowed.
Further, the number of guests is to be restricted to allow for social distancing, with at least two metres between tables, or partitions installed, to ensure patrons are seated at least one metre away from each other.
Undermining the main reason people frequent such popular venues, the draft rules also called for groups to be limited to five persons. and guests were to be prohibited from dancing and singing, gathering, shouting and wandering around the premises.
The list of 22 rules is too tough for operating entertainment businesses, Mr Weerawit said politely, before launching into a tirade against the quality of thinking behind such an exhaustive list of precautions.
“I want to ask those who did this draft what was their thinking and what part of the brain did they use?” an angry Mr Weerawit asked The Phuket News.
“This draft for entertainment businesses is too tough. We want them to be more flexible. Think, the risk could be anywhere where people are around, and I have not seen any reason to come up with draft rules like this,” he said.
“If you make rules like this, you might as well not provide music entertainment. The singer wears a face shield while performing? That is not a great idea. And prohibiting people from singing while they are at the venue? People staying at home is better, right?” he posed.
Mr Weerawit believed that entertainment venues were being singled out with more stringent precautions to follow.
“We understand that the goal is to reduce the risk of COVID-19 from spreading, but the prevention must be strict and clear from the beginning, when the tourist arrives in Phuket.
“And tourists do not immediately come directly to the entertainment zone. They go somewhere else, such as a shopping mall, first. These rules, if applied in full, must not apply only to here [the entertainment zone],” he said.
“Entertainment businesses are not able to follow all the rules in this draft. It is impossible,” Mr Weerawit said plainly.
“We will still open next month anyway, even if we are not able to follow all these rules. If they want to shut down the entertainment industry because businesses are not able to follow these rules, then let’s do that. I don’t care,” he dared.
Lack of support
Mr Weerawit also blasted the lack of support from the government for entertainment venue operators.
“The government collects tax from us, but there is no help. The government never helps or supports us with anything for our industry. All they have done is provided some payments through the Social Security Office, but that was only for employees, not the business owner,” he said.
Government assistance is key to helping businesses find their feet again and to stand a chance of future survival, insisted Mr Weerawit.
“The Phuket provincial office needs to act as an intermediary and be able to negotiate with the business owner, landlord and banks,” he said.
“They should also have the authority to engage and talk with the Bank of Thailand for tax and fee exemption purposes, ideally once bar owners have opened their business for three months.
“Also the government should provide electricity and water free for three months to help provide some relief from operating costs while the businesses struggle to restart,” he urged.
The unemployment situation in Phuket is so dire that Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thaunsak Phungdet has already submitted a formal request to the Ministry of Interior to provide people in Phuket left without any income due to the government ban on inbound tourists another three months of social security support.
“I have asked for the most social security support in the country. I submitted an application for the 90 days of social security support for people left without income due to the COVID-19 situation to be extended to a total of 180 days.
“The support for the first three months – March, April, May – is running out, and our request for the support to continue through June, July, August is now being considered,” Mr Thanusak said.
That was on June 10. Mr Weerawit confirmed today that no officials had contacted him about the extra social security support for former entertainment industry workers left without any income.
Meanwhile, Patong Municipality only last Saturday handed out yet another 1,000 “community bags” of essential items to people in need living in Patong.
Mr Thanusak earlier this month pointed out that according to current estimates, the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis may end up costing Phuket more than B280 billion in lost revenues.
Calling COVID-19’s damage to the Phuket economy ‘unprecedented’ Mr Thanusak in earlier this month said that by the end of May COVID-19 had already cost Phuket about B120bn in lost revenues.
A new road
Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup told The Phuket News yesterday that business operators were allowed to enter the Bangla nightlife area to prepare their venues in anticipation of being allowed to reopen.
“But they must inform me first before they will be allowed to enter the area,” she said.
The Bangla nightlife area remains the only geographic area on the island that is still under full COVID-19 lockdown.
“I think the CCSA will approve to lift the lockdown on Bangla Rd because there has not been any new cases of infection,” Mayor Chalermluck said.
The PEBA had asked Mayor Chlermuck to support their request for entertainment businesses to reopen on July 1, she added.
“I agreed with them, and sent the request to CCSA last Friday [June 19],” she explained.
However, special measures will be taken to prevent Patong, and the Bangla area in particular, from becoming a “red zone” for COVID-19 infections again, Mayor Chlermluck said.
“Thermal scanners will be set up at each end of Bangla Rd,” Mayor Chalermluck said.
“Entertainment venue operators also must follow the guidelines [expected to be approved by the CCSA] and must set up Thai Chana QR code at the entrance to their businesses so guests can register their attendance there.
“And they must manage their visitors inside the venue to allow for four to five square metres per person,” she added.
“I will inform them of the details of what is required again later,” she said.
Meanwhile, while Bangla Rd has been under lockdown, Patong Municipality has installed new drains underground along both sides of the road, and will complete the resurfacing of the road in time for July 1, Mayor Chalermluck explained.
“The road is nearly finished. All we need to do is paint the line markings on the road. The whole road has already been cleaned up,” she added.
*The complete set of rules are as follows:
1. Restrict the number of guests to allow for social distancing
2. Screen the body temperatures of both staff and guests
3. Provide adequate hand santisers at entrances and exits
4. Limit the number of people in each group to five
5. Provide enough space for guests to queue prior to entry
6. Leave at least 2 metres between tables, or install partitions
7. Ensure patrons are seated at least 1 metre away from each other
8. Maintain good ventilation
9. Prohibit dancing and singing
10. Replace menus with single-use paper sheets
11. Only serve drinks in glasses – no bottle service
12. Require staff to wear both face masks and face shields
13. Install partitions to separate crowds from performance areas
14. Prohibit gathering, shouting, wandering around the premises
15. Require performers to only wear face shields
16. Provide personal cutlery
17. Frequently clean the premises, every 30-60 minutes
18. Sanitise tables, chairs, door knobs, counters and other frequently touched surfaces at least once a day
19. Prohibit competitions and group activities
20. Prohibit bar games, including pool and darts
21. Ensure social distancing in smoking areas
22. Ban product presenters from sitting with guests