As recently as November, PEBA members, which represent about 400 entertainment venues in Patong, filed another petition calling for Bangkok officials to make late-trading legal.
The request is a way to end the ongoing “pay for play” racketeering by officials who collect bribes from venues in order to stay open late, Mr Weerawit repeated. (See story here.)
“This needs to be resolved. While Bangkok officials continue to stall on giving an answer, it leaves open the opportunity for officials to demand bribes from venue operators to stay open late to serve tourists,” he said.
Mr Weerawit has repeated time and again throughout the campaign that staying open late is very important for Patong’s nightlife industry as many tourists do not venture out to entertainment venues until after 11pm, leaving bars and clubs only a few hours to legally stay open. (See story here.)
“If the problem with late-trading times is not fixed, the bribes will come back again,” he warned.
Mr Weerawit also supported a call for nightlife venues to be exempt from the alcohol-promotion laws, especially businesses located on Bangla Rd and elsewhere in Patong’s entertainment zone.
“I agree with this idea. Venues must be free from the (alcohol) advertising rules, especially those in popular areas such as Bangla Rd because this is already recognised by the government as an entertainment zone,” he said.
“In turn, we would strongly support enforcing these laws outside the entertainment zone,” he added.
The call to support the move follows Dr Prapa Nakara of the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) herself calling for such venues to be exempt from the alcohol-promotion laws.
Dr Prapa as Director of the Non-communicable Diseases division directly heads the enforcement of alcohol-related regulations on the island. Following express orders from Bangkok, she spearheaded the crackdown on alcohol-promotion laws in the lead-up to the New Year holidays. (See story here.)
“I go all over the island enforcing these laws and I absolutely agree with setting out special zones where businesses can be free to sell and promote alcohol,” Dr Prapa told The Phuket News.
“The government should set up special areas and publicly declare them as exempt from these laws. We are talking about tourist entrainment zones that the government already recognises as areas where the primary business is selling alcohol anyway,” she said.
However, Mr Weerawit noted that being exempt from the alcohol-promotion laws for now remains a secondary objective – making late trading legal remains his top priority.
“I will not push this issue for now,” he said. “Not until the entertainment zone in Patong is expanded to include the OTOP market, Soi Sansabai and other popular tourist areas and that late trading has become a reality.
“We have waited a long time for this, and so all we have received is blurry response,” he said.