Alcohol to be sold in Saudi Arabia for first time in more than 70 years

Alcohol to be sold in Saudi Arabia for first time in more than 70 years

This policy reform is a notable step for the Kingdom, however it will not currently extend beyond non-Muslim diplomats, maintaining the ban on alcohol for the general population
01 February 24
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In a significant shift from the decades-old prohibition on alcohol, Saudi Arabia has announced plans to open a licensed shop in Riyadh catering exclusively to non-Muslim expatriates, and more specifically, diplomatic staff.

This policy change marks what is seen as a historic development, as this location will be the first alcohol shop in the country since the implementation of prohibition laws in 1952. The clientele for the new store, located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter, will be limited to diplomatic personnel.

Despite the prohibition, diplomats have been about to import and consume alcohol, this has been imported via sealed official packages known as 'diplomatic pouches', received directly into the embassy or compound, for consumption in-situ.

Specific conditions will be in place for patrons of the licensed shop, such as age restrictions and of course, the confirmation of official diplomatic status, in addition to prior registration to the program and not exceeding a monthly limit of 240 'points' of alcohol. Although the points system is yet to be shared, it is expected that these 'points' will correlate with various types and quantities of alcoholic beverages, to ensure a controlled distribution.

Reports have stated that Saudi Arabian officials emphasised that this new initiative aims to combat the illicit trade of alcohol, by offering a regulated and controlled environment for diplomats.

The opening of this licensed store aligns with the Kingdom's broader societal reforms under the Vision 2030 initiative, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia maintain Muslim law where drinking alcohol is not permitted, and there are currently no plans to extend this service non-diplomatic expatriates or foreign nationals living and working in the Kingdom, thus maintaining the ban on alcohol for the general population.