Indonesian Ban on Sale of Alcohol at Minimarkets Takes Effect


APRIL 16, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesia on Thursday officially banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in convenience stores and other small shops, but senior officials in the capital are already expressing fears that the nation-wide regulation could hurt tourism.

"We will comply and we'll follow the rules," Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said on Thursday as the Trade Ministry's regulation took effect.

Basuki said that he was concerned that the ban could encourage the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages in the city, but stressed he was committed to play by the rules regardless.

The city's deputy governor, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, also said he was hoping the ban would not scare away foreigners.

"We can't let [the ban] kill our tourism industry — beer and other alcoholic drinks are not taboo for foreigners, they are used to it because their countries are characterized by cold temperatures," Djarot said, without elaborating on the supposed connection between alcohol consumption and the prevailing climate.

Djarot also stressed that the ban on sale of alcohol by convenience stores did not mean alcohol would not be available at all in Indonesia, as the hospitality industry and larger supermarkets across the country would not be affected. Some areas in Indonesia do already ban alcohol consumption, such as Aceh, but this is based on regional bylaws, not national regulations.

"It's a restriction, not a total ban," the Jakarta deputy governor explained.

Be that as it may, Reuters earlier this week reported that two Islamic parties have proposed legislation that would ban all consumption of alcoholic drinks and bring jail terms of up to two years for offenders.

Although it was not immediately clear how much support there would be for the bill at the House of Representatives, a lawmaker for one of the parties said it could become law as early as the end of this year, and that it was driven by concern for people’s health rather than any ideological motives.

“This is not a religious or ideological issue,” Abdul Hakim of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) told Reuters. “This is purely for the protection of the children of the nation.”

Djarot dismissed predictions that the ban that went into effect on Thursday would cost Jakarta at least Rp 45 billion ($3.5 million) in revenue annually.

"We can't tell for sure now, because it was just a prediction. The fact is that hotels, restaurants and cafes are still [serving alcoholic beverages]," he said.

The Trade Ministry with its regulation revoked the license of convenience stores and other small shops to sell alcohol. Only restaurants, hotels and large retailers are allowed to sell beer, wines, spirits and the like.

Neneng Sri Mulyati, a spokeswoman for minimart chain 7-Eleven, said her company would comply with the regulation. Starting on Thursday the chain run by Modern Internasional would no longer sell alcoholic beverages in any of its 172 stores across Jakarta, she stressed.

"Starting today there will be no more alcohol in our stores," Neneng said.

Additional reporting from Reuters