The arrival of COVID-19 in Lebanon exacerbated pre-existing structural issues, the result of longstanding political inaction and corruption. Despite demand for alcoholic drinks coming under heavy pressure, many Lebanese continue to drink socially, with vibrant nightlife culture seen as important stress relief as people leave strict traditional social norms behind when migrating to Beirut and other cities.
The COVID-19 outbreak that hit Lebanon in early March 2020 led to a total nationwide lockdown starting from 13 March. This included the closure of all restaurants, bars, clubs and public spaces until early June, when partial re-openings were phased in.
As of 16 September 2020, Lebanon had seen 252 deaths due to COVID-19 and 25,449 cases. Lockdown came into effect on 13 March in Lebanon, with the country’s only international airport shut down on this day and remained closed until 1 July.
Attitudes towards alcohol in Lebanon are generally very relaxed, especially in the major cities of Beirut and Tyre, marking the Mediterranean nation out from most other Middle Eastern countries. Tyre is a very touristic city and has also been home to a large cohort of UN peacekeeping and border control staff for the last 30 years.
2019 saw Lebanon enter a period of serious economic recession, the result of political inaction in the face of several years of accumulating economic challenges and slow growth and the pressure coming from the presence of two million Syrian refugees in Lebanese society. Contributing to the country’s economic woes are US economic sanctions on Hezbollah and rampant corruption.
The political uncertainty and economic stasis which has blighted Lebanese society throughout 2019 and much of 2020 has resulted in a breakdown in the delivery of utilities. Power cuts, water shortages and various other structural issues have plagued the country for years, but became an even more common aspect of daily life in the country towards the end of the review period.
No changes were seen to the legal regime controlling and or regulating the alcoholic drinks industry during 2019.
In June 2017, as part of a raft of new tax measures, the Lebanese parliament approved a one percentage point increase in VAT from 10% to 11%. This new tax regime also saw an additional 500% tax levied on alcohol, in addition to the existing excise.
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