This is an overview of Thai law and the statue, Entertainment Places Act in Thailand as explained below. The text is for educational purposes only as well as for comprehension purposes. Speak to one of our lawyers for advice if you wish to start an entertainment venue in Thailand. This could be a nightclub, bar or other forms of entertainment. We accept no legal liability for the referencing of this text.
The Entertainment Places Act in Thailand governs all entertainment venues in the country. The statue explains what the government views as an entertainment venue. Then also the rules which govern its operations. With the advent of Covid 19 in Thailand, it was entertainment venues which had been closed first.
The spread of Covid 19 in Thailand had a number of clusters when it started as well as its third wave. One of the first mass spreader events had been at a boxing arena. The second most prolific one was at an entertainment venue in the high end area of Thong Lor in 2021.The Thai government had shut down the entertainment venues on a number of occasions over the past 12 months. What is the law and what does the statues cover. You can also see the application for an entertainment licence in Thailand.
Section 1 of the Act merely states that this Act is called the “Entertainment Place Act B.E. 2509 (1966)”. Following this is Section 2 of the Act which states when it comes into law and at what date. It is Section 3 which defines what the law covers.
What is an Entertainment Place?
An Entertainment Place is any place that on a commercial bases provides a service of commercial benefit. Any place for dancing tradition dancing or otherwise, with or without a partner for commercial benefit. These would mainly cover your nightclubs. Then also any place that on a commercial bases sells food, liquor, tea or any beverage that is sold with a concubine looking after the customer.
The Act also covers any place that provides bathing, steaming and massaging the exception being where the place is registered for Thai traditional medicine and with a registered Thai traditional medicine practitioner. Another exception is a health and beauty as prescribed by the Notification of the Ministry of Public Health with an approval of the Minister of Interior, which shall have characteristics of a place, service or service provider. Finally any other places as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulation.
Another entertainment place which is covered by the Act is any place where food, liquor, or any other beverage is sold or served in any of the following forms. This must be where music or live music or any type of live entertainment is provided. This is with or without an employee sitting with the customer. This covers most of the up market restaurants where live music is most common. Any place where a musical instrument is provided where an employee sings with the customer. These are the Karaoke clubs which are common place. Business that allow dancing close to food tables and who close at midnight.
When you view the above you will note that the Entertainment Place Act in Thailand covers all areas of entertainment. Always take legal advice when you are not certain about your business venture.
This section states that every entertainment needs to be registered. This section was repealed in 2003 so see the updates. Note also that when you register a business and apply for an entertainment license that the holder must be of good character.
In this part of the Entertainment Places Act in Thailand, the government will see if the location is acceptable in view of maintaining public order.
The section covers the qualifications of those who wish to apply for an entertainment license. You must be 20 years old or older. You should not have what would be disgraceful behavior or showing a lacking in morality. You should also be mentally sound when applying for an entertainment license. Finally you should also not have a contagious disease, be an alcoholic or have any drug problems. More likely than not you are going to need to obtain a police clearance certificate. This to show that you have not been sentenced in a sex-related offence. Possessed pornography or trafficked in women and children.
As you will note that Section 6 covers the person applying for an entertainment license. The following section. This being section 7, cover, the venue and the location of the venue for your entertainment business.
The location or building where you will be starting your entertainment venue needs to conform to the rules. Your venue may not be located close to a temple, any place of worship, clinic, hospital or school. Note however that the clinic by definition is one where they allow patients to stay overnight. You may also not be located close to a dormitory, youth club and also cannot be located in a residential area. The reason for this is that they do not want to have any social disorder or disturbance in the vicinity. Finally there must be excellent ventilation. On the last point you might recall a fire at a nightclub a few years back in Thong Lor. The government does not want a repeat of this and fire standards have become very strict when it comes to nightclubs in Thailand.
Section 8 covers the ownership or the property. Section 9 covers submitting the application for the license. These sections in the Act states that if you don’t own the property then you need to have written permission from the owner. Once the application for the Entertainment License for your nightclub or bar in Thailand is submitted. Then it takes 90 days to get an approval or a denial.
Section 10 covers validity of the license for a year while Section 11 is an appeal process if it is denied on renewal. Every entertainment license ends on the 31st of December each year. Each license has to be renewed before that time and you may operate in the interim until such a time that the license renewal is denied. If the renewal is denied you can within 30 days appeal to the Director-general of Thailand National Police Department. In other areas in Thailand the appeal would be to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior. You cannot appeal their decision.
These parts of the Act covers the holding of the license as well as the fact that it cannot be changed without written permission. The first being Section 12 states that if the license is lost (since you have to have it on display) you will need to apply within 15 days for a copy if you have lost or damaged the license. Section 13 states that you cannot change the license or move or change the size of the property. This can only be done with written permission. In short, you cannot expand the size of your venue without permission using the same license.
The first section covers those who work for you and their employment record. You will keep records of who they are and what they do at your venue. Section 15 states what is needed when you lose their employment records. You will need to replace these records within seven days of being lost or damaged. Note that Section 14 which covers record keeping was amended in 2003.
This section was also amended in 2003. The purpose is to describe what type of people you are allowed to hire as staff and customers in your entertainment venue. If you own a nightclub or a bar with music as defined under the law then this is important. Your staff member cannot be under the age of 18. You may not allow anyone who is drunk and annoying to stay within or enter the venue.
Also note that you may not sell alcohol to a drunk person who is annoying or someone who is unconscious. Also you have to have a manager on duty and not allow narcotics at your venue. You are also not allowed to let anyone with a firearm enter the venue unless it is a policeman in uniform performing his duty.
This becomes very important in Thailand. There have been a number of clubs closed as they allowed people under the age of 20 to enter their venue. There have also been those who had been closed down for allowing drugs or firearms at their venues. This will get your license revoked and your club or bar closed. There may also be fines and jail terms. Most entertainment venues in Thailand you will need to show your Thai ID card or your passport to enter.
Section 17 will determine your operating hours. What time you may open and close. With Covid 19 these have been changed by government many times. Failure to comply will create its own legal problems. In Bangkok many entertainment venues have been closed when they have failed to comply with the law. Section 18 covers your right to selling tea, liquor and or providing performances. See also the liquor license in Thailand.
These cover an entertainment venue that is engaging in indecent entertainment. If you allow a wild animal in your performance that can be a danger to people or showing an indecent act, you may be shut down. If you are reported under Section 19 then section 20 allows a police inspector to shut down the entertainment venue.
Here the penalties are if you violated the law. This could be under Section 19 or Section 16 of the Act. Your entertainment license may not be renewed, suspended or revoked.
If you violated Section 14, Section 15 (no staff records), Section 16 (2) allowed weapons or (3) allowed narcotics and drunks to enter, or the Ministerial Regulation under Section 17 apart from a determination of opening and closing days and hours. Your license will be suspended for no longer than 30 days at a time. See the basic overview of these Sections above.
If your violated Section 13 (expanded/moved your business), section 16 (1), (4), (5), or (6),section 16/1 paragraph one, section 16/2, section 19, or the Ministerial Regulation under section 17 only in part of the determination of opening and closing days and hours of the entertainment place. This will get your license suspended for 90 days.
The appeals process is further explained in this Section. If you entertainment venue has been closed, then speak us so that the situation may be reviewed. Then we can assist with an appropriate appeal to have the business opened again. The breakdown of the Entertainment Place Act and Entertainment License is only a very brief overview for academic purposes.
This section of the Entertainment Places Act in Thailand was amended in 2003 as well. Once you have been told to close and you license revoked or suspended. You have 15 days in which to appeal the closure. The appeal for the revocation or suspension is made to the Director-general of Thailand National Police Department or the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior. There is no further appeal.
Note further that in Section 23, no person within a 90 day period may apply for an entertainment license for the same premises. This is important when buying a business as well as selling a leasehold agreement for the premises within the 90 days.
Inspections or random inspections can be done by the government at any time under the Entertainment Places Act in Thailand. This is where they suspect that the law has been broken. The officer has to display his identification card. Most nightclubs in Thailand are shutdown in this manner. These random inspections are looking for underage people in the venue as well as any drugs being sold at the venue. Section 25 was repealed in 2003 as it made it a criminal offence not to assist the officer during an inspection. The fine was one month in prison.
The Section 26 was repealed in 2003 where is made it a criminal office to operate without a license Also to operate when your license has been suspended. Before you could receive a jail term of up to one year. Section 27 allows for you to be fined up to 50,000 THB for violating Section 12 (lost or damaged license), Section 14 (No staff records), Section 15 (No replacement staff records), section 16 (1) underage employees, (2) allowing drunk people to enter, (3) selling liquor to a drunk and annoying person or (4) Management neglect, Section 16/1 paragraph one (allowing under age persons to enter), or the Ministerial Regulation under Section 17 (poor management). These are in reality the most common issues with entertainment venue shutdowns.
There are more penalties under this Section. If you violate Section 13 (changing the venue size or moving) or Section 16 (5) allowing drugs in the venue or (6) allowing weapons into the venue. The fine is not more than 60,000 THB.
If you violate Section 16/1 (allowing someone under the age of 20 to enter the venue) paragraph two or paragraph three (not checking ID cards of those who enter), or Section 16/3 (allowing drunks who are annoying into the venue). The fine is not more than 50,000 THB.
Any person entering your entertainment venue without a photo Thai ID card is liable to a 5,000 THB fine.
Also any person who enters the venue with a firearm contravenes Section 16/2 is liable with 6 months in prison and/or a 10,000 THB fine. If the weapon in a gun (note: firearm and gun does not have the same definition). Then you are liable for a prison sentence between one and five years or a fine of between 20,000 THB and 100,000 THB or both the fine and prison sentence. If the weapon is a weapon of war, then a prison sentence of between two and twenty years. This and/or a fine of between 40,000 THB and 400,000 THB. The court will also forfeiture the weapon.
If you provide an obscene performance then the prison sentence is not more than three years and/or a fine of up to 60,000 THB.
Section 28/4 was deemed unconstitutional as it used to hold the managers or owners responsible for any acts in their venue. They had to prove that they had not been part of the commission of an illegal act. This has been ruled unenforceable. The presumption of innocence and the Thai Constitution is discussed elsewhere on this website.
These are the final Sections of the Entertainment Places Act in Thailand. This would not be relevant to most people. This cover those business who were established under section 3 (1), (2) or (3) before the commencement of the Act. Compliance with the law has to be made within 30 days. The last section of the Act being Section 30 where the Minister of Interior shall have charge and control of the execution of the Act.
Note that the fees for an entertainment license under the law is 50,000 baht government fee for the license as well as 1,000 baht for a copy of the license as well as renewals each time of 10,000 baht.