BEIRUT BLOGGERS FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHT TO PARTY
Posted April 10th, 2008
One night at Torino's in Gemmayze. © Caroline Poiron / arabimages.com
Beirut doesn't have much going for it these days, what with bickering politicians and the eternal threat of a new war with Israel. But at least it still boasts some of the best nightlife in the Middle East and beyond. That is until the authorities slapped an 11.30 p.m. weekday and a 1 a.m. weekend curfew on all bars and restaurants in residential areas throughout Lebanon.
The curfew will mostly affect the Gemmayze area in East-Beirut which has become the main night spot over the past few years. It was also in Gemmayze that the current controversy originated.
Gemmayze was a residential area until it started competing with Monot as Beirut's main night spot. Now, Gemmayze's main street is lined with dozens of bars, pubs and restaurants, and their valet services have laid claim to every parking spot in the neighborhood.
On the night of March 29, angry Gemmayze residents staged a pyjama demonstration to symbolize their lack of sleep due to the nightlife and blocked traffic in Gemmayze's main street for almost two hours. As a result, Lebanon's Tourism Minister closed down almost twenty bars, citing a lack of legal permits. Then, it was announced that an 11.30 p.m. curfew would be imposed on weekdays, 1 a.m. on weekends.
One Lebanese blogger, Fink Ployd who blogs on bloggingbeirut.com, has decided that Beirut will not go to sleep without putting up a fight. He has created a dedicated website, www.iLoveGemmayze.com, to coordinate a campaign to save Gemmayze nightlife.
In particular, Fink Ployd is calling for a counter-demonstration in Gemmayze on April 12 to demand an end to the curfew. The demonstration is supposed to take place at 1 a.m. sharp.
"Since 1 a.m. is the Curfew, the best way to show up in numbers is to do so just as the curfew is being enforced, so everyone exiting a pub can converge onto the area," the Ployd writes. "To make our point, we will need to be super quiet and civilized. If we can maintain composure and orderliness in a crowd of a thousand at 1 a.m., then surely the curfew is unnecessary."
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