Tradesmen Ask for Postponement of Turkish Alcohol Ban

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government was limiting personal freedoms by restricting the sale and marketing of liquor.

Erdogan said an alcohol law parliament passed last week was designed to protect minors.

“No one should make alcohol a matter of identity,” Erdogan said today in a televised address to his party members in parliament in Ankara. “The regulation does not interfere with anyone’s lifestyle. If you are going to drink, then get your drink and drink at home. We are not against it.”

The law banned alcohol ads and nighttime liquor sales in stores, and Erdogan said drinking within 100 meters of mosques and schools will not be permitted. It’s the toughest nationwide curb on alcohol since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power more than a decade ago, and critics see it as an attempt to impose Islam’s ban on alcohol on the general public.

The legislation has drawn fire from industries that will be directly hurt, such as restaurants, entertainment companies and stores. Some have suggested foreign investment could be hurt.

Bendevi Palandoken, head of a confederation of tradesmen, TESK, said the ban on sales at stores between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. should be postponed for at least three to five years, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency. Palandoken said 185,000 kiosks licensed to sell alcoholic beverages will be in trouble if the ban goes into force, 90 days after the law is published in the Official Gazette.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said last week that the government hadn’t calculated the legislation’s possible impact on tax revenue if alcohol consumption drops. Turkey collects about 8 billion liras ($4.3 billion) a year in alcohol taxes, he said.

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