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The dine-in ban is lifted: 5 Bangkok restaurant owners share their thoughts

Lockdown measures in Bangkok and beyond are officially easing up today, but there’s no denying that there’s an air of unease that sweeps the city. To dine in or not to dine in? Is it safe? What are the precautions? What is open?

Whilst customers have many questions to ask themselves before they brace the great outdoors, imagine the conundrum that exists for restaurant and cafe owners providing these services. Sudden procurement of produce, antigen and rapid tests, vaccination passports, adjusting opening hours, and a ban on alcohol sales are just a sliver of the bigger picture they must consider.

Definitely more controversial than previous re-opening periods in Bangkok, the already-exhausted food and beverage industry finds itself on a slippery slope. COVID-19 infection rates in Thailand remain high, and vaccination rates remain (albeit slowly increasing) relatively low. Is it worth it to open given the risk? Is it worth it to open for the chance of extra revenue? What is the public sentiment?

It is a back and forth (one of our interviewees calls it a “seesaw”) we can’t even begin to wrap our heads around. Here, we ask 5 Bangkok restaurant owners what’s on their mind as the dine-in ban officially lifts today, and the ball shifts to their court.

[Hero Image Credit: Bangkok City Diner; Featured Image Credit: Mia Restaurant]

kad kokoa dine-in ban lifted
Image Credit: Kad Kokoa

Leo Sebag of Kad Kokoa says the situation is evolving in the right direction

Cafes and restaurants have been struggling for months now, not being able to create decent revenue, with landlords often pressuring to get the payment of the rent. I think it was more than time to revise the decisions that have been taken.

At Kad Kokoa, our whole team is fully vaccinated and we have made sure that everyone is well aware of how to protect themselves and customers. Today we slowly re-opened for dine-in outdoors first, and will consider putting tables indoors if everything goes well. We still believe that the key to fight COVID-19 is awareness, and so far none of our team has been infected. But who knows, maybe the real key is actually eating chocolate!

Status: Open for dine-in
Website: Kad Kokoa

Image Credit: Mia Restaurant

Julien Imbert of Mia restaurant is waiting for curfews and alcohol bans to lift

If we re-open, there will be revenue, but it will generate operation costs as well, without considering the cost of COVID-19 tests and other measures. At this moment, we are not confident that people will go out straight away, especially when alcohol is still not allowed, and the venue needs to be closed at 8pm.

A lot of businesses will be happy to re-open and we are certainly happy for them, but for fine dining restaurants, it is not financially logical, and most importantly, it will affect our guest experiences.

It is sad, as we are desperately waiting to be back and we are missing Mia very much. We hope everything will be better soon, and will probably re-open on 1st October.

Status: Temporarily closed
Website: Mia Restaurant

dine-in ban bangkok
Image Credit: Bangkok City Diner

Bangkok City Diner says we’re not in the clear yet

We feel that the recent re-opening, like all government announcements during the pandemic, has been hastily and messily implemented and more like a bandaid than what restaurants actually need.

The government has yet to give restaurants real support during lockdown and now, without any real assurance of public safety, they are letting us open again for dine-in with convoluted messages. Personally, we feel like we’re not in the clear yet for re-opening safely, nor do we think it will significantly benefit us financially at this time.

Status: Open for takeaway and delivery
Website: Bangkok City Diner

dine-in ban no more
Image Credit: JHOL

JHOL is going with a “never give up” mentality

For us at JHOL we have been constantly fighting to keep alive. We had to close within 2 months of opening and have been on this rollercoaster ride since March 2020.

The idea is to not give up! We have re-thought our whole operations and have even started doing deliveries since May and the response has been fabulous.

We all know and have addressed how ill-managed the COVID-19 situation is here in Thailand, so we are just doing everything that it takes to get through this. We as a society need to look forward to living with COVID-19 and the government should step up and do their bit.

Status: Open for dine-in from 9 September 2021
Website: JHOL BKK

Image Credit: Eats Payao

Gavin Koh of Eats Payao is giving it a shot, but remains cautious

We have decided to re-open, but strictly by reservations only. As our venue is fully air-conditioned, we’ve had to rearrange the seatings to abide by the 50% ruling. We’ve also made sure all our staff are vaccinated including ourselves of course.

We’re going to give it a shot by re-opening but I feel that there is still a lingering fear in regards to getting infected by the virus and that people will still be very cautious about going out. If profits for dine-in do not prove worthwhile, we’ll most likely switch our focus to private chef table bookings as well as to focus on deliveries.

What we’ve learnt during this seesaw period is that we have to really be prepared and to be versatile with our businesses just in case the fourth, fifth, or God-knows-what wave hits us, and before you know it, we shut down again.

With all that said, I wish all my fellow industry brothers and sisters the very best.

Status: Open for dine-in
Website: Eats Payao Home Bar & Kitchen

Lisa Gries
Creative Content Director, Bangkok
Lisa loves to travel, and is always on the lookout for the world’s best nap spots. She’s a serious Asian art history nerd, and has a knack for languages and coffee table books. She hopes to publish her own novels one day, one of which will likely be called ‘All The Great Conversations I Had In A Bangkok Speakeasy.’ It’s a work in progress.