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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Lebanese Restaurants Not Following The Smoking Ban: Feniqia, Jbeil

I was taking my Australian cousins out to dinner today and I decided to have them try out Feniqia in Jbeil. One of my cousins, who has been visiting Lebanon more or less frequently lately, complained about the place having too much shisha and smoke. So I gleefully told her about the smoking ban and how a decent place like Feniqia was surely abiding by it.

As we neared the place, we saw a man smoking a shisha. But we was immediately next to a window so I thought that maybe that was their policy – you get to smoke if you’re close to an open window as long as you blow your fumes outside.

Then, as we had our dinner, a couple sat next to us. The guy held out his pack of Marlboro and lit a cigarette. So I told him that it’s forbidden to smoke here. He replied: really? So I told him: Yes, haven’t you heard of the new law?

He said that he was aware of the law but that he saw many people smoking shisha. So he called the restaurant manager to make sure. The manager came over and I asked him: isn’t your place abiding by the non-smoking law?

His reply? Of course and without a doubt not.

He said so with pride and left. The guy’s date ordered her shisha and she started smoking as well. So I decided to try and call the number to which you can report such incidences. After much searching, someone on twitter let me know that the number you need to call to report restaurants not abiding by the smoking law is 1214 – the hotline of the ministry of health.

I called that number 3 times. It got disconnected almost immediately. They must be sleeping – such a hot hotline, right?

As for Feniqia, I don’t expect it to follow the law anytime soon. Not even when winter rolls around and it can’t leave its windows open for aeration. And being a regular, I haven’t seen them undergo modifications of the place to bring it up to par with the regulations. And for proof’s sake, here are a few pictures.

Update:

The numbers that you need to call to report restaurants are either 112 or 1735. Call the numbers when you’re at the restaurant not the following day.