Eight years after he founded an alcohol delivery service with more than a quarter million followers online, Jerome Le Louer found out this morning that Wishbeer’s days are numbered: Come December, its core business will be illegal in the eyes of the law.
“Yes, we won’t be able to do e-commerce anymore,” Le Louer said, describing the “pivot” he and other online sellers must make. “We might do more physical stores indeed.”
Making good on a two-month-old threat issued after online sales surged during the pandemic, the ban published yesterday in the Royal Gazette prohibits “direct sales of alcoholic beverages through electronic devices or in a manner of electronic communication.” It goes into effect in 90 days on Dec. 7.
It does not ban selling and paying for alcohol electronically – by transfer or card – at stores, restaurants or other licensed establishments. But it will spell the end of adding a beer or other bottle to dinner delivery orders.
Online beer community Prachachon Beer called upon its more than 20,000 followers to bring a case to the court, possibly through a class-action suit.
“Whoever is affected by this ban, please join us in filing complaints to the Administrative Court,” its admin wrote last night.
The amendments to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act were signed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and cited the difficulty of controlling time, place and manner restrictions on alcohol sales.
Le Louer said it was an unnecessary and business unfriendly move.
“Technology allows that, so it’s counterproductive to simply ban,” he said today. “Thailand is not setting an example in regards to innovation, and will also scare off investors even further.”
The new regulations are also characteristically vague, forbidding “persuading and introducing” new alcoholic products or related services via electronic channels in which sellers and customers don’t meet in person.
The ban was floated amid a pandemic social climate friendly to longstanding prohibitionist ambitions. It came after online sales gave people a way around a nationwide ban on sales, ostensibly imposed to help contain COVID-19.
Coronavirus anxiety not only saw all sales banned nearly a month at the height of the outbreak, but also vague regulations on advertising zealously enforced, and to this day bars operate with strict limitations that include early closing times.