BANGKOK — Business associations on Wednesday urged the government to compensate those affected by a recent order to shut down bars and other nightlife establishments for two weeks.
As entertainment venues are facing a fortnight of near-zero incomes, two trade guilds said the government should take initiatives in assisting thousands of people and businesses who will suffer under its order, which was issued to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“I agree that bars should be closed to prevent further spread of the coronavirus,” Thanakorn Kuptajit, president of Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association, said. “But the government should also help business owners who are particularly hit by this measure.”
The alcohol industry had already seen a slump in sales over the past months due to the decline of tourism, he said.
Thanakorn also said the government should make it clear of what establishments are to be closed, since the current order uses a blanket term that leaves room for different interpretations.
“The Cabinet’s decision uses the term ‘entertainment venues,’ but I ask if a restaurant offers a live band and serves alcoholic beverages, doesn’t it count as an entertainment venue as well?,” Thanakorn said.
Sa-nga Ruangwattanakul, an advisor of the Khaosan Road Business Association, said he expects a 80 percent drop in revenue in the coming weeks.
Thai New Year festivities, which usually attracted thousands of tourists to Khaosan Road in April, were also cancelled earlier this month out of health concerns.
“We are taking the hardest hit,” Sa-nga said. “The recent decline in the number of tourists has already taken us a heavy toll, and now comes this measure. I believe our revenue is now at 10 percent of what we were able to generate.”
The Cabinet’s decision to shut down Bangkok’s nightlife came as a shock to many business operators, who were told only a day in advance before the measure is due to take effect tonight.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said the drastic measure is necessary because these venues typically draw large crowds, posing risk of infection.
Although Sa-nga said he supports the shutdown for the sake of public health, he said the government should also provide remedies for vendors and employees who make their living on a daily wage.
“It’s not only about them, but their family members behind them as well,” Sa-nga said.
Thanakorn from the alcohol business association suggested slashing taxes for businesses affected by the shutdown measure.
“We lost our income, but we still need to pay taxes. What if we can get some tax reductions to substitute the lost?” Thanakorn said. “The government should also help employees who are at risk of being sacked. Bar owners have other lifelines they can rely on, but these people don’t.”
The government previously pledged to support businesses in the time of coronavirus by refunding VAT and reducing utility bills, but Sa-nga said these compensations are only limited to corporate levels and not enough for employees.
“The government should consider the consequences at every level,” Sa-nga said. “These measures may help business owners, but what about those down the hierarchy?”
The red light district in the resort town of Pattaya is also bracing for what could be the worst downturn in recent years.
“We have already lost 60 percent of our customers from the outbreak. Now with Songkran cancelled, all travelers have called off their plans to visit Pattaya,” Hassaya Thammadee, the owner of a bar on Pattaya Beach Road, told Matichon.