Saudi Arabia Set to Open First Alcohol Store in Over 70 Years

Saudi Arabia has announced the opening of its first alcohol store in Riyadh, a departure from its strict alcohol prohibition laws that have been in place since 1952.

Saudi Arabia Set to Open First Alcohol Store in Over 70 Years

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This was led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of the Vision 2030 initiative, to reshape the kingdom’s image, attract foreign investment, and promote tourism.

The store, situated in the Diplomatic Quarter, will exclusively cater to non-Muslim diplomats, a cautious step toward liberalization in a nation rooted in conservative values.

The prohibition of alcohol in Saudi Arabia dates back to 1952 when King Abdulaziz imposed a total ban following an incident where his son, Prince Mishari, fatally shot a British diplomat in Jeddah after being denied another drink at a function.

Since then, the consumption of alcohol has been strictly forbidden under Islamic law, with severe penalties including fines, jail time, public flogging, and deportation for unauthorized foreigners.

The newly announced alcohol store in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter is to bring about a historic shift in Saudi Arabia’s approach to alcohol sales.

Limited to non-Muslim diplomats, the store is set to open within weeks, offering a range of liquor, wine, and beer.

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To access the store, thirsty envoys must register in advance and receive government clearance. The age limit is set at 21, and patrons are required to adhere to a proper dress code while inside.

Monthly limitations will be imposed on purchases, with patrons restricted to 240 points of alcohol per month.

The allocation system with points based on the type of beverage, with one liter of spirits equating to six points, one liter of wine to three points, and one liter of beer to one point.

While these limitations exist, they are not overly stringent, according to the details revealed in the document.

The Saudi government has said plans to establish a new regulatory system to control the entry of alcohol into the kingdom, putting an end to the uncontrolled exchange of such goods.

Diplomats, who traditionally imported limited quantities of alcohol using sealed diplomatic pouches, will now operate within a more defined system.

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The news of the alcohol store has mixed reactions from both citizens and foreigners in Saudi Arabia. Some view it as a minor policy tweak, while others see it as a precursor to wider availability of alcohol in the country.

Concerns have been raised about the impact on the kingdom’s identity and culture, with worries that the introduction of alcohol could lead to societal changes and increased risks of alcohol-related issues.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia plans to diversify its economy and become a global hub for business and tourism.

The opening of the alcohol store, even if limited to non-Muslim diplomats, is seen as a way normalizing the government’s sanction of alcohol in defined settings.

This could attract more foreigners and contribute to the growth of the hospitality industry. Other Gulf states, including the UAE and Qatar, also operate alcohol regimes with certain restrictions.

While these countries allow the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims in hotels, clubs, and bars, there is no indication from the Saudi document that similar provisions will be to ordinary foreigners without diplomatic privileges.

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