Buying Alcohol in Thailand: Mid Afternoon Prohibition

In a follow up on my posting about the banning of alcohol during election voting, I wanted to detail a very odd ban on the sale of alcohol in Thailand.

It is illegal to buy alcohol in shops and supermarkets- meaning for private,

Sign in Seven Eleven detailing when you can purchase alcohol

personal consumption- from 2:00pm until 5:00pm. Shops cannot sell alcohol from midnight until 11:00am.

Yes, this is odd. I understand the desire for shops and supermarkets to cut off sales from midnight through 11:00am, this is common in many countries, but why the mid-afternoon ban? It is very odd if you happen to be in a 7-11 or supermarket in the middle of the afternoon and want to buy a few beers for the evening- you cannot.

To make things more odd- you can drink in a bar or restaurant all day.

Even more odd? If you are buying 10 liters of alcohol, you can buy make the purchase anytime, as it is a larger quantity, like wholesale. Now this is very strange- it is okay to purchase a large quantity and possibly get very drunk, but if you want to buy a few beers then you are subject to restrictions as to when you can make the purchase.

There is nothing published about the logic of this ban or the reason. I have been told it is to prevent Thai people from drinking all afternoon. This would appear to be the reason- many Thai people cannot afford the “bar” price of beer and spirits. I don’t think this is prevention, but just makes it inconvenient to find a bottle of beer in a store in the middle of the afternoon.

You can beat the ban- generally a local store that is not part of a chain or large grocery store will sell you alcohol, at anytime.

If you cannot buy a few bottles and need a fix, don’t worry. Bars are open close to 24 hours a day. There are bars that open at 9am, most close at 2am during the week and 4am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There are sidewalk bars- literally temporary bars set up on a sidewalk- that will stay open as long as you want to pay.

One lesson of Thailand, where there is a rule, there is generally a way to work around the rule. Just smile and ask, there is a good chance someone will help you.

Additional information about buying alcohol in Thailand can be found in this 2013 post.

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About faranginbangkok

Additional pictures: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/faranginbangkok For more updates about Bangkok, Thailand and other thoughts: www.twitter.com/lilrichardb I began working in Bangkok during 2008- a time that featured a great deal of political unrest in Thailand and particularly Bangkok. I had lived in San Francisco for 15 years and was working on a project in Thailand. Generally I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and then 3-4 weeks in San Francisco. Did Bangkok begin to feel like home? Yes, and No. Bangkok and the Thai culture forced me to feel many things, the change in culture and environment was so dramatic it forced the decision- embrace or ignore. I embraced and made Bangkok my home and base in 2009. I have enjoyed living in Bangkok, experiencing Thailand and the entire ASEAN region.
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17 Responses to Buying Alcohol in Thailand: Mid Afternoon Prohibition

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  2. Mark says:

    I remember a few times I wished the U.S. government had a ban on afternoon drinking. I think I had this epiphany at the Gold Cane at least once.

  3. John Seaman says:

    As far as I can tell there is NO legal basis for this prohibition. I remember walking into a Tesco about 6 or 7 years ago and finding a notice attached to the beer cooler. It said that according to the “Proclamation of the Revolutionary Council” alcohol sales were forbidden except during the hours now enforced. I was startled, wondering if there had been a coup and I hadn’t heard about it. Turned out it was a proclamation from some coup back in the 1970s! I presume Khun Purachai (aka Mr Clean) had decided he liked the idea and ordered the police to enforce it once again. However, newspapers quickly pointed out that the courts had already said proclamations of military coups of the past have no legal basis today. When that happened, the sign was changed to read “according to the order of the police”. In short, this idiotic rule is being enforced because one man in Thaksin’s time decided he didn’t like people drinking. There are exceptions though – if you buy alcohol in large quantities (by the case or so many bottles of whisky or wine), it is permitted. You can buy enough to become thoroughly wasted, but not enough just to relax and cool off. Leave it to Thaialnd.

    • Thank you for the outstanding comment. The rule is quite comedic. After asking a number of Thai business people, it sounds as if the logic behind the rule was to prevent alcohol consumption throughout the day. But, as you state, you can buy alcohol in large quantities during the “prohibition” hours. The logic (um, if there is any) behind that? If you are buying a large quantity it will not be consumed immediately. Okay…..

      As with most rules in Thailand, this one is enforced sporadically. Local shops do not care and will sell you anytime- large grocery stores and chains of convenience stores follow the rule more closely.

      All in all, a very odd law.

  4. John Seaman says:

    As far as I can tell there is NO legal basis for this prohibition. I remember walking into a Tesco about 6 or 7 years ago and finding a notice attached to the beer cooler. It said that according to the “Proclamation of the Revolutionary Council” alcohol sales were forbidden except during the hours now enforced. I was startled, wondering if there had been a coup and I hadn’t heard about it. Turned out it was a proclamation from some coup back in the 1970s! I presume Khun Purachai (aka Mr Clean) had decided he liked the idea and ordered the police to enforce it once again. However, newspapers quickly pointed out that the courts had already said proclamations of military coups of the past have no legal basis today. When that happened, the sign was changed to read “according to the order of the police”. In short, this idiotic rule is being enforced because one man in Thaksin’s time decided he didn’t like people drinking. There are exceptions though – if you buy alcohol in large quantities (by the case or so many bottles of whisky or wine), it is permitted. You can buy enough to become thoroughly wasted, but not enough just to relax and cool off. Leave it to Thailand.

  5. Lynn says:

    My bar on Soi 6 didn’t sell alcohol on Vesak Day (Buddha’s birthday) or yesterday July 2, 2011 or even today which is July 3rd 2011. Although I just spoke to a bargirl from our bar who happened to see on the street today and she said she had to work tonight. Wild huh?

  6. Jimbo says:

    My understanding is that the ban in the afternoon is to prohibit school children (the older ones…) from buying alcohol after leaving school…
    This would make sense regarding the volume restriction… as it is unlikely that their pocket money would allow them to buy 2 cases of beer… however the ban does stop them from buying one or 2 tins of beer after school.
    When you look at it this way, it does make a little more sense…

    • Kit says:

      It would make a lot more sense if the retailers refused to serve under-age customers. You have to be 20 to enter a bar/nightclub/etc which sells alcohol, so presumably you have to be 20 to buy alcohol in a retail outlet.
      The ban has nothing to do with children; it is all about trying to increase adult productivity by making all-day drinking more difficult. Plus a bit of Buddhist puritanism, to satisfy the religious lobby. Plus perhaps a desire to increase road safety; since the police are useless at preventing drunk driving, the next best thing is to make it slightly more difficult for drivers to get hold of alcohol.

  7. The prohibition was enacted shortly after the Thaksin coup when an ultra conservative was put in charge of “social issues”. The rationale was to limit buying alcohol by school age kids. They also tried to force bar closings at 12 midnight, but that was tossed due to outcry by taxi drivers and street vendors.

  8. Scott Mallon says:

    Definitely an idiotic rule. This morning I went to Foodland. My wife and I drink Tequila once in a while and I wanted to pick up a bottle. Of course, shopping at 9AM this was not possible. Contrary to what the heavy-handed government may think, I wasn’t planning on drinking as soon as I got home, or even this evening. I rarely drink but like knowing I have Tequila available when I want it.

    It was convenient to get a bottle when getting groceries. So now, if I want a bottle, I need to go all the way back to Foodland and waste my time because some moronic Thai government official who is probably banging whores at the soapies feels he should have the power to decide when others can purchase alcohol.

    PS…I’m thinking of learning how to manufacture my own brew of Tequila. It won’t be easy but then I don’t need to be dictated to by the flipping police-state government.

  9. Pingback: Alcohol in Thailand- When You Can Buy, Where You Can Buy, When You Can Drink, Where You Can Drink | Farang ( ฝรั่ง) In Bangkok

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  11. Buddy says:

    Another inane Thai “rule” which makes absolutely NO SENSE!

  12. Fnasse says:

    Good Lord. Seriously, someone is so annoyed about going to foodland an extra time, or just refuse adjusting the shopping time a tiny bit to fit in with the alcohol selling times, that he is actually considering brewing his own spirits? Well, you cant go through life that way. Just relax, take it with a smile and go again. If you dont like to “waste time” you are definitely in the wrong country dude. Try Switzerland, Germany or Sweden.

  13. Harry Barracuda says:

    Is it too late to tell you that it’s designed to stop schoolkids buying booze on their way home from school?

    Not that it works, obviously, but the Thais like to get their names in the paper and shit.

  14. kuhn david says:

    This ban was put in place by Thatskin to irk the owner of 7-11 stores and cost them money, if there was no legal basis the big stores and chains would not follow it!!

  15. Calum Thornton says:

    7/11 won’t sell in the afternoon but Family Mart will

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