Food by VICE

Drinking Beer Just Got a Lot More Difficult in Indonesia

The Indonesian government introduced a ban this week on the sale of beer by small shops and street vendors. That could spell disaster for the booze-loving tourism industry.

by Munchies Staff
Apr 17 2015, 4:44pm

Image via Google user pexels

Despite the fact that Indonesia's population is more than 87 percent Muslim, it's not all that hard to find a drink there.

It may be slightly more difficult to get a beer across the many, many islands that comprise the country than in, say, Las Vegas, but it's certainly available. If not the arak of Bali—a potent moonshine made from palm sugar that bears no relation to the Levantine drink of the same name—there is always beer. Specifically, there is the nearly ubiquitous Bintang, followed by smaller brands like Bali Hai and international offerings, including Guinness and Heineken.

READ MORE: How to Drink Moonshine in Bali

But that ubiquity may be coming to an end, after the Indonesian government introduced a ban this week on the sale of most alcoholic drinks by small retailers. That means that convenience stores, food stalls, and independent vendors can no longer sell beer or pre-mixed drinks; large supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and bars, however, are unaffected—so far.

Despite the dominance of liquor-averse Islam in Indonesia, the resort island of Bali is mostly Hindu—and it's pushing back on the measure. There, many street vendors make their livings selling beer on the beaches to tourists.

"If we are not allowed to sell beer, we will suffer," said one Balinese vendor to the Jakarta Post. "My income will significantly decrease. Most tourists choose beer more than any other beverage."

The vendor noted that he makes the equivalent of US$15.47 in profit each day; without beer, he claimed that he will make less than half that.

Charles Poluan, an executive at Indonesia's malt beverage producers association, told Bloomberg that small shops have always been the major beer distribution channel in the country. "We can't yet determine how badly it will affect us economically," he said. "The picture is too astounding."

The ban comes as no surprise for those living under the increasingly conservative and Islamist-leaning Indonesian government. According to the wording of the regulation, the ban is intended to "protect the morals and culture of society." That sentiment was echoed by Fahira Idris, founder of the National Anti-Alcohol Movement, who reportedly said that booze is a "machine killing our youth."

Regarding the ban, trade minister Rachmat Gobel reportedly told a group of Muslim anti-alcohol activists, "I don't care if investors make an enemy of me. I just laugh. Tourism is not a problem. Do we want to protect Indonesian citizens or tourists?"