Bar staff protest on Phuket walking street, after viral video prompts police crackdown

The disgruntled staff of a Phuket bar have staged a protest on Bangla Walking Street, after their bar was shut down for violating Thailand’s alcohol sales law under current Covid-19 restrictions. Police closed down the bar when a celebrity lawyer posted a video on Facebook showing late night partying at the venue during Songkran, including alcohol sales to tourists after 11 pm, the official cutoff time.

Angry and out of work, the bar’s staff marched on Bangla Walking Street to protest the legal whistleblower and subsequent crackdown. On Saturday, the celebrity lawyer, Sittha Beerbangkird, shared the video of the bar on his Facebook page. According to Sittha, Phuket residents had complained to him that the bar at Patong Bay Hill Resort often opened overtime. He said they has sought his help to expose the bar on social media because local authorities had done nothing about it.

The lawyer then raided the bar at 2am and posted a video featuring crowds of partying tourists. In his post, Sittha said the bar has been operating overtime and violating Covid-19 restrictions for years. He said as far as he knew, the bar didn’t even have a license. He also claimed it was impossible that no one knew about the bar, and speculated that there might be a bribe going on under the table. His video quickly went viral, resulting in the bar’s temporary closure.

During the pandemic, which is still technically a national emergency, Thailand allows bars in the yellow and blue zone that turn into restaurants to serve alcohol until 11pm; after that, alcohol sales are illegal. However, this bar was was caught fully operating as a bar well past the cutoff time. In the video, the lawyer said it was 2am, but the bar was still open. He emphasised that noise from the bar had been annoying residents living nearby, prompting them to ask him to help report the issue because the authorities had ignored it.

After his video went viral, the bar at Patong Bay Hill was ordered to close temporarily. In response, more than 50 bar staff, who have lost their jobs, went to Bangla Walking Street to protest at 11pm on Sunday.

They displayed various signs and banners complaining to the lawyer, with messages like…

“We are hungry, and it’s for food, not for reputation on social media”; “We do not welcome anyone who wants a spotlight”; “Can you pay my debt?”; “Mind your own business!”

The protesters added that Patong residents understood their own conditions as they were born and raised. They said Patong was a tourist destination with no rubber plantation or palm plantations, so they had to do what they did to earn a living. They added that no one had taken care of them since the pandemic hit, and residents had to survive on their own.

Some Thai netizens replied to the on the post, saying they had spotted bars near their houses doing the same thing. Others warned the lawyer to beware as there might be some influential people involved. Many netizens said they understood the situation of the staff, but everyone should follow the rules. If Phuket can open bars, then other provinces should be allowed to do the same.


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