Government Considers Lifting Alcohol Sale Ban in Afternoon

The government may eliminate the afternoon prohibition on alcohol sales to enhance its tourism promotion efforts.

The Minister of Public Health, Cholnan Srikaew, plans to propose to the government’s alcohol control committee a review of a request from an association of alcohol businesses to lift the restriction preventing the sale of alcohol from 2pm to 5pm.

As the committee’s chair, Dr. Cholnan intends to initiate discussions about the petition from the Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association (TABBA).

Dr. Cholnan mentioned that the afternoon restriction on alcohol sales is not actually included in the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, but rather was a measure introduced by a coup leader in 1972.

He noted, “The committee will need to determine its next steps if it agrees that the 2pm–5pm alcohol sale ban should be lifted for the sake of the government’s tourism promotion policy”.

A committee insider revealed that a decision is anticipated at the committee’s next meeting on February 15.

Despite TABBA’s suggestion aligning with the government’s tourism strategy, the insider emphasized the need for enhanced safeguards, particularly to protect minors, against the risks that may arise from lifting the ban.

Should the alcohol control panel endorse TABBA’s request, the decision will be passed to the national alcohol policy committee for final approval, according to the insider.

This national committee is typically led by the prime minister or one of their deputies, the insider mentioned.

Following approval from the national committee, the Ministry of Health will issue a new directive allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages from 2pm to 5pm, the insider stated.

The implementation of this change might be expedited to take effect by early April, just in time for the annual Songkran festival, as noted by the insider.

Thanakorn Kuptajit, an advisor to TABBA, pointed out that a recent Interior Ministry regulation allowing entertainment venues in Bangkok, Phuket, and Chon Buri to remain open until 4am, which became effective on December 15, has not fully benefited these establishments due to the afternoon sales ban.

According to Mr. Thanakorn, this regulation is a setback, and its removal is crucial for the government to fully support its tourism objectives.

In addition to seeking the repeal of the 2pm–5pm ban, TABBA advocates for stricter enforcement of laws to prevent alcohol-related road incidents and the illegal sale of alcohol to individuals under 20 years of age, Mr. Thanakorn added.

The forthcoming visa-free entry scheme for Thai-Chinese tourists, starting March 1, is expected to attract more Chinese visitors. Loosening alcohol restrictions is seen as a move that could further increase tourism revenue, Mr. Thanakorn suggested.

“Regulations that hinder tourism or are unnecessary should be adjusted to align with the government’s tourism promotion. This alcohol sale ban is one of those regulations”, he said.

He noted that tourists from various countries, including China, often expect to enjoy alcoholic drinks with their meals, especially dinner.

Mr. Thanakorn revealed that TABBA has formally requested the repeal of the afternoon alcohol sale ban in a petition to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin, and Dr. Cholnan.