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Updated January 2024
Saudi Arabia is set to open its first liquor shop in the last 70 years, aiming to curtail the illegal trade and production of alcohol within the Kingdom. Moreover, the opening of a liquor shop is in harmony with Saudi Arabia’s recent initiatives to promote liberalization and economic diversification, moving away from its historical dependence on oil.
Read on as Wego explores all the details about the newly introduced alcohol shop in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi Arabia’s first liquor shop details
Saudi Arabia, the sacred centre for Muslims worldwide due to its association with Mecca, has upheld stringent Islamic principles to foster spiritual development among its citizens.
Though alcohol is prohibited in Islam, it wasn’t officially banned in Saudi Arabia until 1952.
Fast forward seventy years and Saudi Arabia has sanctioned a liquor shop exclusively for non-Muslim diplomats. This decision aims to curb the illicit alcohol trade within the Kingdom. The establishment of a liquor shop also aligns with Saudi Arabia’s recent efforts to liberalize and diversify its economy, which has long been dependent on oil.
Saudi Arabia liquor shop location
The new alcohol shop will be located in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, west of the city centre, serving as the central hub for Embassies worldwide. The choice of this location is ideal due to its limited accessibility, with permission to consume alcohol restricted exclusively to diplomats.
Who has access to the Saudi Arabian liquor shop?
The newly introduced alcohol shop is exclusively for non-Muslim diplomats who, until now, have been bringing alcohol into the Kingdom through sealed official packages known as diplomatic pouches.
With this initiative, diplomats can now be relieved from carrying alcohol with them and storing it until the completion of their mission and departure from the country.
This scheme proves to be very useful for diplomats as it allows them to continue their drinking habits within the country. However, certain restrictions have been applied to the scheme.
Saudi Arabia liquor shop rules and restrictions
Although the introduction of the liquor shop addresses the requirements of non-Muslim diplomats, offering them a venue to fulfil their alcohol preferences, there are specific regulations governing the consumption and procurement of alcohol at the establishment:
- individuals below 21 years of age will not be permitted to enter the alcohol shop.
- each diplomat is assigned a fixed monthly quota of 240 points, and exceeding this limit is not allowed. The points assigned for each type of drink are as follows:
- one litre of spirits is valued at six points
- one litre of wine at three points
- one litre of beer at one point.
- products cannot be obtained spontaneously; permission must be sought through an app. Upon government approval, individuals can visit the shop.
- proper and decent attire is mandatory when visiting the shop, and mobile phones are prohibited. They must be submitted outside in separate pouches provided for this purpose.
- drinkers are not permitted to send someone else to purchase drinks on their behalf. The individual approved for the purchase must be present in the shop personally.
In addition to the guidelines above, exercise caution and mindfulness regarding consumption and behaviour in public after drinking.
Please note that alcohol consumption and possession remain crimes under current Saudi law. Violations can lead to severe penalties, including fines, public flogging, jail sentences, and deportation of unauthorised foreigners.