Ban on liquor stores during lockdown stirs controversy

Ban on liquor stores during lockdown stirs controversy

Fevzi Kızılkoyun - Istanbul
Ban on liquor stores during lockdown stirs controversy

A government decision to shut liquor stores during the full lockdown has triggered a debate in Turkey, with business owners decrying unfair competition while the opposition labeling the alcohol sale ban as “social engineering.”

Supermarkets, butcher shops and grocer shops will operate between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the lockdown but liquor stores (known as Tekel stores in Turkey) will be closed during this period.

According to the lockdown rules, sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets or other stores will also not be allowed.

“Many Tekel stores also serve as a grocery shop, selling newspapers, and basic food items such as bread, yoghurt and water to their customers in the neighborhoods. They are not only selling alcoholic beverages,” said Ferihan Karasu from an umbrella organization representing Tekel stores.

The matter should not be narrowed down to alcohol sales, there is another angle to it, Karasu added.

The decision regarding the Tekel stores creates unfair competition because grocery stores will be open and if their shops will close for another three weeks, it would be very difficult for them to keep their businesses afloat, she said, demanding an exemption from the government.

Meanwhile, Veli Ağbaba, deputy chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticized the ban on the alcohol sale.

“Those bans show it is an attempt for social engineering, not a fight against the outbreak. The government should reserve this decision,” Ağbaba said.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said allowing markets to sell alcoholic beverages during weekend lockdown creates unfair competition. “We are trying to protect Tekel stores’ rights. Our decision is in line with scientific views,” he said.

The ban violates people’s constitutional rights, according to Erinç Sağkan, the head of the Ankara Bar Association, noting that the decision could be challenged on legal ground.

Meanwhile, the alcohol ban was widely debated and criticized on social media platforms.