Al Dirwandi is a famous restaurant in Ain el Mreisseh. It’s a place where you pay a lot of money to get good Lebanese food. When I say a lot of money, I mean 3-Ferraris-in-front-of-the-door kind of money. So, as is customary in the restaurant business, the customer is always right, and in this particular place, this is especially true.
One Ramadan night however, a female friend of mine was dining there and ordered a glass of whiskey. The waiter said she couldn’t have a whiskey. She replied she’d pay the extra if it wasn’t in the set menu, but again he insisted she ‘could not have any’. A paying customer, in a Lebanese restaurant, in Lebanon, was not allowed to drink alcohol (which is on the menu).
What a shameful, backwards decision by this so-called esteemed restaurant. Personally, I will never set foot in that place again and here’s why.
- We are in Lebanon. A country whose diversity and tolerance we boast about to the world. Banning a certain beverage on religious grounds is the stupidest, most uncivilized decision someone can take. We laugh at countries in the Gulf for banning alcohol, and whose very own citizens come to Lebanon to binge-drink because you have the freedom to do so here in public. Should we allow places like Dirwandi who leech off wealthy Gulf tourists to turn Lebanon into a mini-theocracy where I can’t have a beer in Ramadan?
- I am 100% certain that all of my devout muslim friends will have no problem with me drinking a beer when we’re out having dinner or lunch. The nonsense reason such restaurants might give is that it will offend muslims, is simply silly, and that type of Islam which is not tolerant of others is one we do not welcome in Lebanon, nor ever will, no matter how much they are willing to pay.
- If I am a paying customer, and I order something you offer and is available, denying me that on religious grounds is not only rude, but defies all the principles of hospitality management. I want beer, you go get me one, no matter what time it is or month it is.
- If you insist on being religiously-oriented in your business, please clarify that before welcoming customers, for I would surely never step into a place where food is mixed with religious prejudices and practices.
What is even more worrying, is that it’s not only the greedy restaurants that force you to order water and peanuts and make you pay 10$ for them who are doing that, but also international chains of hotels and restaurants. One such incident occurred with other friends of mine in the new 5-star Hotel in DownTown Beirut: Le Gray. They ordered dinner and some fine wine. The waiter set the table and put the wine glasses in front of the diners, only to have them removed by his supervisor minutes later. The reason was that alcohol was not allowed during Ramadan. So, they did what was best and left the restaurant.
I would suggest such infantile behavior be made known to customers prior to their entry into a restaurant, might I suggest this?
I am not an alcoholic nor am I a fan of alcohol. But I refuse to have anyone tell me I’m not allowed to do so in my own country, one not built upon religious fanaticism and archaic theology, but on the reputation for openness and freedom few other countries in the region share.