Saudi Arabia to open its first alcohol store in Riyadh

Spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this initiative is aligned with his Vision 2030, aimed at transforming economy

Bottles of Buchanans whisky are on display at a liquor store that sells whiskies and other spirits distributed by Diageo, in Mexico City, Mexico, December 7, 2023. —Reuters
Bottles of Buchanan’s whisky are on display at a liquor store that sells whiskies and other spirits distributed by Diageo, in Mexico City, Mexico, December 7, 2023. —Reuters

In a significant move towards expanding its appeal for tourism and business, Saudi Arabia is set to open its inaugural alcohol store in Riyadh, exclusively catering to non-Muslim diplomats, NDTV reported.

Spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this initiative is aligned with the broader Vision 2030 plan aimed at transforming the nation’s economy beyond its reliance on oil.

The store, situated in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, a hub for embassies and diplomats, will require customers to register through a mobile app, obtain a clearance code from the foreign ministry, and adhere to monthly purchase quotas, as outlined in a document accessed by Reuters. The store’s access will be “strictly restricted” to non-Muslims, aligning with Islamic principles that prohibit alcohol consumption.

While the document did not clarify whether non-Muslim expatriates beyond diplomats would have access, sources familiar with the plans anticipate the store’s opening in the coming weeks.

Saudi Arabia has historically enforced stringent laws against alcohol consumption, with penalties ranging from lashes, fines, and imprisonment to deportation for expatriates. 

Recent reforms have seen a shift towards replacing corporal punishment with jail sentences. Until now, access to alcohol was limited to diplomatic channels or the black market.

The move to introduce the alcohol store coincides with new regulations restricting alcohol imports within diplomatic consignments, a measure aimed at curbing the “improper exchange of special goods and alcoholic beverages received by the embassies of non-Muslim countries inside Saudi Arabia,” according to Arab News.

As Saudi Arabia continues its trajectory of social and economic reforms, including easing gender segregation and allowing women to drive, the introduction of this alcohol store marks another step towards transforming the nation’s conservative image and fostering a more open and diverse society.

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