Bar owners in Egypt have expressed concerns over whether their freedom to serve alcohol will be reduced or stay as it is, a local newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Article 63 of the Constitution, passed in 1976 in Egypt, prohibits offering or consuming spirits or alcohol in public places for locals but allows shops that cater for tourists.
Despite laws clearly mandating that only foreigners have the right to consume alcohol, locals have long made their vibrant presence felt whether as regulars, social drinkers or wine connoisseurs.
But in post-Jan. 25 revolution Egypt, opinions regarding alcohol regulation have been dealt with care and almost exclusively within the context of tourism and consumption by foreigners.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi greatly emphasized the importance of “freedom of tourists” largely in reference to alcohol. But some hardliners such as the influential Salafist Al-Nour Party has taken a stronger stance by urging a complete ban only allowing foreigners to bring alcohol from abroad to consume in their hotel rooms.
“We’re naturally nervous, just like everyone else,” a manager of a popular downtown bar told The Daily News Egypt under the condition of anonymity.
“We’re attracting 30 percent of the customers we used to before the revolution,” he said while pointing to dozens of empty chairs on a Friday night. “People are afraid to come downtown because there’s no security.”
The manager told the newspaper that the government knows the value of venues like his and that people would begin bouncing back as stability returned to Egypt and the downtown area, where more than 50 bars are located.
Gomaa, a manager of a centrally located bar, Cap D’or, which is accessible from a side street behind a kiosk, told the newspaper: “[the government] talks about the importance of places like this for tourists … but if we relied only on foreigners for business, we’d close down. Ninety percent of our customers are Egyptians.”
According to the Muslim Brotherhood-run website Ikhwanweb, Mursi said in May 2011 that a decision to ban alcohol would be up to parliament and not the Muslim Brotherhood.
In June, judges from the toppled President Hosni Mubarak’s dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament.
While Mursi attempted to reverse the decision, Egypt is administered via a Shura Council without any formal parliament to take the lead.
“We’ve been coming here for years to spend time with each other,” said Khaled, a tour guide in his 50s and one of the regulars at Gemeica bar.
“Here, you’ll find people from all social classes, Muslims and Christians,” he added, pointing to a lawyer and a taxi driver sitting in the corner of the room.