Saudi Arabia is planning to open its first alcohol store exclusively for non-Muslim diplomats.
According to Reuters on Wednesday, a source familiar with the plans said the store will be located at Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, a neighbourhood where embassies and diplomats reside.
The liquor store, expected to be opened in the coming weeks, will be “strictly restricted” to non-Muslims.
According to a document cited by the report, customers will have to register through a mobile application, get a clearance code from the foreign ministry, and subscribe to monthly quotas for their purchases.
Confirming the report, Saudi Arabia’s government spoke on the development in a statement via the Center of International Communication (CIC) — the Kingdom’s media organisation.
The agency said the government is imposing new restrictions on alcohol imports within diplomatic consignments.
The CIC said the new regulations had been introduced to counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions.
Saudi Arabia has strict laws against alcohol consumption which is punishable by hundreds of lashes, deportation, fines, or imprisonment.
As part of the reforms, whipping has largely been replaced by jail sentences and alcohol has been available only through diplomatic mail or on the black market.
A source also told TheCable that the move is purely diplomatic, aimed at stemming illegal sales of alcoholic drinks.
So the regulation is diplomatic. Diplomats have the right to bring alcohol into the country. What happens is they bring too much wine and they put it on the black market,” the source said.
“So when they get to the airports, no one fines or charges them. So the government just wants to control that and is restricted to only the diplomatic area. Those diplomats who sell have like a code and can’t sell a number of alcohol.”
Although consumption is still under tight scrutiny, the Kingdom’s reform could mean that some Middle Eastern nations are shifting grounds from their conservative views about liquor intake.
On January 2, 2023, the government of Dubai cancelled its 30 percent alcohol tax to boost tourism in the emirate.
Dubai also scrapped the personal liquor licence fees, thereby making the acquisition of the permit free for alcohol consumers in the United Arab Emirates region.
The UAE government had said the move was to make the city more attractive to foreigners