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Saudi Arabia gets 1st alcohol shop in 72 years: Who is approved to access & requirements

The total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Saudi Arabia came into effect 72 years ago

Saudi Arabia gets 1st alcohol shop in 72 years: Who is approved to access & requirements

Saudi Arabia has brought its seven-decade total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol to an end by allowing the first drinks shop to open in a highly regulated environment.

The shop, located in the diplomatic quarter of its capital Riyadh, accessible to non-Muslim diplomats and will sell fixed amounts of spirits, wine and beer to those approved to access.

Non-Muslim diplomats interested in making purchases are required to carry their diplomatic passports and register via an application known as Diplo before being allowed to purchase fixed amounts of alcoholic drinks upon approval.

For 32 million Saudi citizens as well as Muslim and non-Muslim non-diplomatic foreigners, the ban remains in place with the possession and consumption of alcohol remaining a crime that can be punished with fines, floggings, jail or deportation.

Requirements and quotas

A statement released by the Saudi government on Wednesday noted that the new regulatory framework on the sale and consumption of alcohol was aimed at countering “the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions.”

“The new process will focus on allocating specific quantities of alcohol goods when entering the Kingdom to put an end to the previous unregulated process that caused an uncontrolled exchange of such goods in the Kingdom.” Added the statement.

An elaborate plan is in place with strict regulations that must be adhered to.

Among the requirements is that customers keep their mobile phones in a “special mobile pouch” as they browse for beer, wine and spirits before making their orders.

Sale and consumption will remain highly regulated with each diplomat who registers allocated a monthly quota that will be tracked to ensure compliance.

Those approved to access the store or make purchases are not allowed to bring guests or anyone below the age of 21 with photography also banned.

Buzz online

The landmark move which created a buzz online was seen as another step in the liberalization journey under the kingdom’s Vision 2030 which among other things, seeks to diversify the economy away from oil and build a robust and thriving economy through trade, investment, tourism and culture.

Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a number of bans have been lifted.

A decade-old ban on women’s right to drive was lifted in 2017 with licenses granted to women allowing them to drive in 2018.

The same year saw a ban on cinemas that had been in place for 35 years lifted with the first movie theater opening its doors in Riyadh.

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