The holy month of Ramadan without a doubt is one of the most sacred times for the majority of Indonesia’s Muslim population and for the brief period of a month, the hectic pace of Jakarta comes to a halt and everything goes into slow motion for once.
The mood of the city shifts as it goes from dreadful traffic and sleepless weekends to even more obnoxious traffic, but at least your weekends are calm and unwinding as the nightlife scene takes a backseat to the Ramadan festivities rightfully soaking up the spotlight.
Don’t panic, or maybe do – in Jakarta taking a backseat doesn’t exactly always mean what it’s supposed to be. Several bars and entertainment in hotels still operate as usual with the exception that they’re expected to work shorter hours and preserve the notion that alcohol consumption during the Holy month is, so to speak, forbidden.
With alcohol in short supply, there will be quite a dry spell for some Muslims that do drink and of course those who don’t practice the religion are faced with the same consequences as they’re expected to maintain a certain image. Bars like De Hooi and Hatchi (Pondok Indah area) still maintain bustling weekends where you’ll surely have a good time but you’re in for a little surprise if you plan on drinking tonight.
At the bar itself alcohol bottle has been taken down as inspectors/police could barge in at any time to do a spot check which makes it rather important to play it safe and keep a rather low profile. If you’ve got no trouble with drinking soju (distilled beverage from Korea traditionally made from barley, wheat or rice) out of a Chinese porcelain tea set then Hatchi is the place to be, but don’t be surprised if there stock is limited or if they miraculously don’t have any of the inexpensive wines that you had to ask for five times.
Serving alcohol during Ramadan in some ways does pose a threat to local businesses and because of this they might not want to serve just anything to anyone hence the subtle suggestions that might be made by waiters that the only ‘available’ bottle of red wine is one way out of your comfort zone in terms of price.
In 2015 import taxes on alcohol jumped to 150% and along with this the government banned sales of alcohol in minimarkets – if you were hoping to make a short run for a six-pack then tough luck. There is a stigma surrounding the consumption of alcohol in a majority Muslim populated country and because of this the House of Representatives (DPR) included an alcohol prohibition bill among the forty bills for the 2016 national legislation program, their top priorities for endorsement this year.
This controversial bill on alcohol poses a serious threat to public health and safety, as it will lead to a rise in consumption of bootleg alcohol (oplosan). The World Health Organization also estimated that illegal alcohol consumption in Indonesia is 5 times greater than the legal alcohol consumption.
At the end of the day the dilemma that everyday readers like you might have is ‘are all these rules necessary? And are we supposed to abide by them fully?’ Well, sadly this isn’t something that seems to have a unifying answer that can satisfy everyone but it definitely is something to consider personally if you’ve chosen to settle down in this beautiful mess of a city that I call home.
Text : Sezen Zorlu