Apart from legal troubles, Covid restrictions are giving the beer business a hangover

The Craft Beer Association, local beer producers and retailers, and entrepreneurs have filed a petition at the Ministry of Interior, urging the authorities to extend restaurant opening times till 23.00 and to allow on-site alcohol sales again in order for their businesses to stay alive.

 Craft Beer Association, local beer producers and retailers, and entrepreneurs staging a symbolic action ahead of the petition submission.

The group states that craft beers must be imported 4-6 months in advance from abroad and can be stored for up to 2-3 months. It is painful to throw them away when there is no market for them.

Athit Siwahansaphan, an Association representative, submitted the petition to a Ministry representative. The Ministry representative stated that the Ministry has no decision-making power in this matter but will bring the issue to the consideration of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the ad-hoc body dealing with pandemic control.

In their petition, the group states that the lockdown policies directly affect at least 500 beer-related restaurants and 5,000 workers countrywide. The Association had attended the economic development committee meeting on 21 January. The Disease Control Department also agreed to re-allow dine-in alcohol sales under 3 conditions:

1. Maintain social distancing

2. Prohibit glass-sharing

3. Prohibit dancing

The group believes that, under these conditions, in combination with the extended dine-in times, they will be able to keep their businesses afloat.

“[We] want the authorities to inform us by 31 January that the end of this month is a decision-making point for many employers on whether we will fight on or surrender”, said Athit.

Beside the group’s demands, Athit also wants the state to ease up on Sections 30 and 32 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which prohibit alcohol sales in many ways, including advertising on online channels, in order to help the sale of remaining stocks.

The state's attempts to control another Covid-19 outbreak are directly affecting the nightlife, restaurant and entertainment industries. Currently, alcohol is prohibited in restaurants. Bars and pubs are not allowed to open. Dine-in restaurants are allowed to open till 21.00.

Thanakorn Tuamsa-ngiam of the Prachachon Beer (Beer People) group said the demands submitted today are not significantly different from the last submission to the Prime Minister’s Office. They are trying to repeatedly raise their concerns on this issue in order to pressure the authorities to solve the problem.

Entry into the alcohol business in Thailand is still economically impossible for small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs. The Notification of the Ministry of Finance Re the Administration of Liquor Businesses 2000 sets very high and expensive standards for those who want to make and sell alcohol.

For example, for drinks produced by distillation, the producer must establish a company with at least 10 million baht authorized capital with production of at least 30,000 litres a day. For fermented products like wine or beer, a company must be registered with at least 10 million baht authorized capital, with production of at least 10,000,000 litres a year.

For the small, on-site serving beer producer or 'Brewpub',  the requires the production of at least 100,000 litres or up to 1,000,000 litres a year.

These regulations have been criticized as feasible only for big companies.



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