Thailand Considers End to 52-Year-Old Afternoon Booze Ban to Woo Tourists

(Bloomberg) -- Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin may end a 52-year-old ban on afternoon alcohol sales after appeals from the tourism industry, which is struggling with rising costs and weak consumer spending.

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“PM Srettha is pleased to consider proposals from restaurant operators to change laws that ban sales of alcoholic beverages from 2 p.m.-5 p.m.,” according to a statement on the Royal Thai Government website.

Such a move would provide relief to many thirsty tourists in Thailand, which is sweltering in temperatures of almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and help bars, hotels and eateries. The Restaurant Business Club submitted a letter to Srettha on Tuesday asking for urgent relief measures — including an end to the afternoon alcohol sales ban — to alleviate rising costs and a moribund economy.

“We have to look at the overall picture on this,” Srettha said in the statement. “Costs are rising, but the government is also promoting tourism, which will help boost restaurant operators’ income.”

The prime minister is under pressure to revive Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, with a recent opinion survey showing that more than half of the Thais are unhappy with Srettha’s performance. The country is targeting a total of 36.7 million travelers this year to help boost gross domestic product growth to 3%. It welcomed 17.5 million foreign tourists in the first half.

But even as visitors return, the Thai Hotels Association earlier this week made a similar appeal for assistance, pushing for a tax deduction or subsidy for renovations as they grapple with uneven post-pandemic recovery.

The three-hour ban on alcohol sales has been in force since 1972 when Thailand became one of the world’s most popular leisure destinations.

The tourism industry’s push for urgent measures to woo visitors also comes as Thailand, which two years ago became the first country in Asia to decriminalize the use of cannabis, is preparing to reclassify marijuana as a narcotic, tightening rules on planting, sales, and exports and imports.

--With assistance from Anuchit Nguyen and Janine Phakdeetham.

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