BANGKOK — A nightlife industry representative on Monday welcomed a promise by the government to reopen pubs, bars, and other entertainment venues in the next phase of lockdown, which may take place as early as July.
Sa-nga Ruangwattanakul, the president of the Khaosan Road Business Association, said the reopening pledge was made during a Sunday meeting between deputy army chief Nattapol Nakpanit and nightlife business owners. However, the final decision is yet to be made by the government’s COVID-19 crisis center.
“The general wanted to hear our demands and see our preparations for the reopening,” Sa-nga said. “I’m satisfied with the talk. Gen. Nattapol said he will present our demands to the government’s crisis center meeting this Friday.”
Entertainment establishments such as pubs, bars, and erotic massage parlors have been closed since March due to the coronavirus epidemic. Although most businesses were allowed to reopen following weeks of waning infections, nightlife institutions were considered “high-risk” of spreading the virus by the government.
Sa-nga said he understands the government’s concerns. But the economy has to be restarted since it has been almost a month without new domestic infections in the country, he said.
“I think it’s safe now to reopen entertainment venues,” Sa-nga, who also owns a number of businesses on Khaosan Road, said. “Business owners are suffering from mounting staff and rental costs. The social security office is not paying out compensation to our staff either. We can’t hold it much longer.”
But even if the promise is fulfilled and bars are allowed to reopen next month, Sa-nga said business owners are not expecting a full recovery due to the absence of foreign tourists.
“We expect to make around 30 percent of our normal revenue,” he said. “We will need to rely solely on Thais and expats, so we must change our products to cater their needs. They are different groups of clubbers.”
Gen. Nattapol, who also heads the government’s study group for business reopenings, said the decision to reopen businesses must be considered carefully to prevent a new surge of infections.
Three new cases of coronavirus infection were reported Monday, according to the government’s COVID-19 response center. All of them are Thai returnees from India, and officials said there is no local outbreak.