Lebanon’s Arguileh Militia

Soon after I blogged about how the Beiruti restaurant Enab, situated in Gemmayze, was violating the smoking ban despite stickers announcing the place as a non-smoking restaurant (link with pictures), IndyAct Lebanon decided to take matters in their own hands after a growing number of complaints regarding that particular restaurant were met unanswered by our tourism police.

As I said, it’s obvious there’s an under-the-table deal somewhere that benefits off our lungs. Anything for that extra money.

IndyAct decided to use their office space, which is ideally situated next to Enab, in order to set up a huge banner announcing to people who frequent Gemmayze that the restaurant nearby is violating the law and that it is not, in fact, a smoke free place as it advertises. The people of IndyAct were surprised to find their premises violated soon after by employees of Enab who took down the poster. Apparently they wanted to break the law in peace.

And it has all been documented on video:

Soon after the incident, IndyACT procured an official permit from the municipality of Beirut to set up the poster that Enab’s employees forcibly removed. Let’s hope those employees don’t break yet another law by removing the poster.

Enab Gemmayze Smoking Ban

 

It is said apathy is the weakest point in applying the law. It is our duty as Lebanese to make sure our law is enforced, people constantly said. But I have to ask: what’s the point?

When restaurants such as Enab break the law so flagrantly and have no problem breaking it even more to cover up the initial violation fully knowing they won’t face any repercussions whatsoever, what’s the point?

The more I call that magical 1735 number, the less cooperation I find from the tourism police whose job, paid for by my taxes, is to ensure such laws are enforced. The smoking ban is dead, despite some politicians wanting you to believe otherwise.

The amount of restaurants violating the law today is way too big to count. There isn’t a restaurant in Jbeil or Batroun or Tripoli – the places I spend most of my time in, apart from very few select places like Crepaway, which is actually observing the law. And they don’t even care about it. When you ask them about the smoking ban they reply: “that little thing? No, there isn’t such a thing over here. Do you want an arguileh, sir?”

 

The solution that I have found suits me best is to reward those few restaurants that are actually observing the law by frequenting them more often. On the other hand, I have decided that when I visit a restaurant that turns out to be violating the law, I will simply leave making sure they know all the smoke in the air is the reason for my departure. They want to make money off arguileh? Well, it won’t be my money they’ll be taking.

While our minister of tourism panics over the decreasing number of tourists visiting our beautiful country and sets up promotions to boost the sector, I have to wonder: how can you expect those people who come from much more organized countries to visit a place where even arguile has its own mini-militia?

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I will personally never visit Enab, Jbeil’s Feniqia (link) or any restaurant that violates the ban for that matter again. I invite you to do the same.

 

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Beirut’s Valet Parking Saga: 3enab, Gemmayze

In February 2012, the story about how a Zaatar w Zeit valet parking hassled and then hit someone who was trying to park in front of ZwZ in the early AM hours made the rounds. It sparked outrage (which naturally eventually died away) and even made it to the news. You can read all about it here.

The time of the following story is a few months later, on December 29th 2012, when a friend of mine named Jad Rahme tried to park in front of 3enab in Gemmayze and was hassled by the valet parking person and then by the restaurant’s manager. His story is currently gaining attention on Facebook (link) and I figured I’d help with sharing it as well:

Yesterday night at 0:45AM we parked in front of the restaurant Enab Beirut in Mar Mikhael. The valets come to us and tell us that we can’t park here because they keep this place empty for the restaurant. That’s the second time I face the same issue in front of the same restaurant and the first time I called the manager who apologized and told the valet to let me park. So that’s what I did yesterday but it seems like this time the manager took it as a personal issue against the restaurant. 

The manager made it clear that I can legally park here but that he don’t want me to park here because he wants to keep the place empty in front of the restaurant. To make it short, after hearing lovely words from the manager like “Akalna khara haydik el marra” and after he shouted “Iza 3ambtethaddene soff hon w fell” we left because we suspected that this will lead to the valet scratching the car or doing any similar vandal act.
I don’t know how many clients they will lose if we park in front of their restaurant at 1 in the morning but what’s sure is that they lost me as a future customer because I was planning to try this restaurant after hearing some good stuff about it in a family lunch few months ago.

To all the older generation who keeps on telling us “We count on the younger Lebanese generation to make this country a better place”, what do you expect from us if we can’t even park on a public parking spot? If we can’t park in a public spot that is meant to be for anyone how do you expect us to solve bigger problems like infrastructure and electricity?

With the hope that one day Lebanon will be run by a state and a government rather than valets and NGOs.

3enab is a restaurant that has been mentioned on my blog before to point out its severe breach of the smoking ban, despite sporting a sticker on its main door advertising a non-smoking environment. You can check the pictures here.

Despite reporting the place, the authorities didn’t even bother which is proof enough – at least to me – that our so called tourism police is in with our restaurants to violate the smoking ban. How many restaurants actually respected the no-smoking law on New Year’s Eve? Almost none.

Regarding the issue at hand, I personally always try to find a place to park without resorting to Valet Parking. But anyone would tell you that trying to park anywhere in Achrafieh on a Saturday (or any other day for that matter) is a near impossible task. I know it shouldn’t be this way but what can you do?

If, by some stroke of bad luck, I end up having to park somewhere in front of a shop, the least that I should theoretically expect is not to be bad-mouthed or hassled or even beaten. But Lebanon is all except theoretical. The police which couldn’t care less about the smoking ban won’t care about an issue that’s been going on for far longer. The authorities which have no problem eating away your rights whenever they feel like it won’t be bothered by some valet parking employee hassling you.

Sometimes things are just the way they are and you can’t really hope to change any of them. With each passing day, this is becoming my realization towards my country. I may love it to pieces but how can I expect to make those needed massive changes when a parking spot has become a commodity, when demanding for a law to be applied is met with apathy, where regulatory laws are always met with ridicule and where those who should look after you only care about looking after themselves?

This is 3enab’s Facebook page (here) if you feel like complaining.