BANGKOK — A group of alcohol sellers is urging PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to loosen his restrictions on booze sales to alleviate the impact on the industry, a representative said Tuesday.
The petition was submitted to the government on Monday by seven trade guilds, led by the Craft Beer Import and Distribution Association, just as officials are mulling an extension of the ban on alcohol sales that has been in place for much of the month. The measure is set to expire on Thursday.
“We are not asking for an outright lift of the ban,” Achiravas Vanasrisawasd, president of the Craft Beer Import and Distribution Association, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We are only asking the government to consider establishments that sell alcohol in the same manner as other businesses.”
He was referring to the proposal submitted by the government’s response center to the coronavirus pandemic, in which businesses are expected to reopen at a different phase depending on the level of infection risks associated with them.
Venues are color coded depending on risk and severity of restriction: white, green, yellow, and red.
Achiravas said there are different types of establishments that sell alcohol defined by law, and it’s not fair for them for the government to put a blanket ban over them.
“Some small bars or outdoor bars that can be implemented social distancing practices may be considered as a ‘yellow’ business, which can be opened after being approved by the government, while discotheques and pubs are certainly ‘red’ businesses, which remain closed until the situation becomes better,” Achiravas said.
The petition also asked the government to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold online or through a delivery service.
He continued, “This is better than all or nothing. At least they can sell drinks and keep their businesses alive.”
The alcohol industry is in chaos since the coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of Thailand’s nightlife, a ban on public gatherings, and a crackdown on inbound visitors. The most recent measure also prohibits sales of all alcoholic beverages nationwide.
However, Achiravas said reopening entertainment establishments alone will not be enough, since the industry is also chained with many restrictions.
In their open letter to PM Prayut, they asked the government to loosen some of the restrictions, like expanding the time that alcohol can be sold during the day and allowing drinks to be sold by takeaway cups.
If Thailand is to stay dry longer, the trade guilds said the government should ease the tax burden for spoiled or unsold beverages.
They also demanded free movement of alcoholic beverages, since many stocks are still being held at ports and warehouses due to restrictions imposed by local provinces. For instance, one of Thailand’s major ports is in Chonburi province, where the governor banned alcohol products from being moved.
Asked whether the approach could lead to more infections, Achiravas said it’s the matter of individuals to drink responsibly. He said drinking beers should pose less danger than gathering in groups to eat a hot pot.
“Drinking can be done individually and it does not necessarily mean social gatherings,” Achiravas said. “Having a family hot pot meal should be more risky since utensils are shared. People drink their own bottles or cups.”
Although he acknowledged that nightlife establishments were responsible for one of the largest clusters of infections in the country, Achiravas said his group will abide with hygiene and social distancing measures as practiced by other public venues.
“The number of cases stemming from entertainment venues is relatively low compared to other clusters,” Achiravas said. “But if they can’t be reopened, at least allowing alcoholic drinks to be consumed at home should be sufficient.”