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    Beirut, an Increasingly Dry Capital

    News about the latest alcohol ban in downtown Beirut has passed largely unnoticed. The famous café “Place de l’Etoile” facing the Parliament was bought by a Saudi businessman and no longer serves alcohol for its clients.

    Not long ago, a liquor store in Nabatieh had to close due to pressure from residents coupled with thinly veiled threats against the owner, should he decide to carry on with his business. Attacks against liquor stores are not a rare case in Sidon, Tripoli and other cities despite holding licenses by the state to sell alcohol. Faced with threats, business owners and clients often have no choice but to retreat and abide. What was once a problem largely confined to the periphery has made its way right into the capital in recent years.

    Of course some would argue that clients looking for alcohol can always move to another region, another restaurant that serves alcohol. However, the successive bans only show that, slowly but steadily the margin of freedom is getting ever narrower, and overall tolerance of even the most trivial of activities is being challenged, bit by bit.

    While foreign investments should always be encouraged, they should not come at the expense of our traditions and tolerant way of life. Citizens must not feel that their customs are threatened, even more so in the heart of their capital.
    Lebanese MPs have made it a tradition to stop by the café shortly ahead of or after a parliamentary session. Last-minute informal discussions over a coffee or a beer has become a trademark and helped in shaping the image of the café. Surprisingly, not a single member of parliament has denounced the recent ban that is taking place precisely in front of the supposedly most prestigious democratic institution in the region.

    The recent successive bans on alcohol are part of a trend that has seen public freedoms and fundamental rights trampled upon. Women have been sidelined in the government formation. A bill to protect them from domestic violence is being strongly fought. Literature and artwork are being censored. Journalists are being asked by our own minister of information to practice self-censorship. At a time when neighboring countries are embracing freedom, we are increasingly limiting our own thus blocking, little by little, the emergence of true citizenship.

    Mona SUKKARIEH

    2 responses to “Beirut, an Increasingly Dry Capital”

    1. It’s sad to see these things happening, unfortunately this is only a continuation of a spreading radicalization in the country that’s been going on for years. I only hope people don’t fool themselves into thinking that it is a by-product of the current government, keep these issues outside of the political point game, and actually do something about the protection of our freedoms. It’s a shame how little activity the political scene has seen in support of the law for the protection of women, while the radical voices have done most of the talking (or at least the loudest).
      But again what can you expect when most of our political parties on both of sides of the political spectrum are backed by radical countries that nobody dares to upset ?

    2. MoNajem says:

      Unfortunately, this prove more and more than our communities especially the Muslim ones is getting more and more conservative. Of course depending more and more on Gulfi tourism fired back on us. Having a clear plans for tourism in attracting tourists will definitely help, especially for ex that Baalback and Tyr are still selling alcohol.

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