OPINION — There is a chance that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, B.E. 2551 might get revamped. For the (much, much) worse.
Among other penalties it enshrines in law, the act from 2008 currently fines you B50,000 for posting a photo of your drink online, or B500,000 if you’re the owner of an alcohol-related business. The newly drafted one wants to fine you B500,000 and B1 million if you’re a business owner.
Here is a list of other things the authorities want to do with the new act:
- If business owners refuse to obey, they could be fined B50,000 per day until the mistakes are corrected.
- The authorities will have full autonomy to raid bars, restaurants, or alcohol-related businesses without court orders.
- The authorities can introduce new orders without having to do so through referendums or public hearings.
- Any indirect advertisements about alcohol—including those that are not about alcohol but could be interpreted as advertising about alcohol—would also be outlawed. This means bye-bye to alcohol brand logos on soda or water bottles.
It’s also worth noting that the authorities who fine businesses or individuals will get to keep a percentage of it—an incentive to encourage enforcement of the law.
Restaurant and bar owners have been severely affected by government restrictions throughout the pandemic, including orders to shut without compensation. The current Alcohol Control Act from 2008 already hinders business, making it illegal to sell or advertise alcohol online. This strict new proposal would make an already difficult situation even harder.
If the new act is passed, with harsher penalties and even more power given to authorities, we could bid farewell to the food and beverage industry as we knew it in this (once vibrant) city.
However, food and beverage representatives have proposed other regulations that are currently up for referendum, too. They are asking for changes such as:
- Revoke the unreasonable alcohol sales regulations, like limited selling hours, alcohol bans on Buddhist holidays, bans on online sales, and bans on alcohol promotions.
- Allow alcohol advertising based on facts of the products.
- Adjust fines to be more reasonable and do away with incentives for authorities who fine businesses or individuals. (The current act fines business owners B500,000 and the authorities are given 60-80% of the fine.)
Food and beverage representatives are currently suing the government for damages its restrictions have caused the industry. More details to be revealed soon.
Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj is a former BK senior writer and founding member of Fire & Ice, a group of food and beverage representatives standing up for the industry.