Saturday, December 25, 2021

Lebanon: The dwindling end of year parties

Casino Plage Khaldeh - New Year's Eve (artwork by Tarek Chemaly)

I recently read that hotels and restaurants will not be throwing their customary New Year's Eve parties - apparently this does not make economic sense. If a singer gets a hundred thousand Dollars to sing for two hours, and with seat limitations and spacing as per the Ministry of Health recommendations (which would make it a maximum of 50% of the allotted space), the prices would not suffice to compensate for the fees. This wihtout counting that, what's between the economic crash, and the August 2020 explosion, and the Corona virus, many hotels have taken an unofficial hiatus (case in point, the Phoenicia hotel for example still has to do open since then). Now all this was a "Chronicle of a death foretold" as signs of implosion started showing since 2019 (do note that even last year, there were some sparse parties in certain hotels and even the caliber of the artists they attracted was not too mediocre to be honest), but one could only read the signs. 
So whereas usually the end of year party ads would be put anywhere from official billboards to pinned on trees across the highway or glued on any upright concrete surface, all this is non-present at this time. Now just to be clear, there are indeed local parties - Casino du Liban is hosting one, Al Atlal Plaza is hosting two, Hilton and Movenpick too. The prices vary naturally, but for those ready to part with their (real) Dollars, it goes from 200 to 650 Dollars (the stars vary from heartthrob Nassif Zaytoun, to Arab heavyweight Saber el Rouba'i - Amyan Zbib will be in 2 of the parties actually). Apparently the biggest name to join the local fray is legendary singer Georges Wassouf at the Le Royal Hotel (the news caused a mini frenzy among his local fans though doubt anyone can afford the prices).
But still, for a city that used to host hundreds upon hundreds of parties, it is without any doubt a lackluster harvest. Actually, I said this before, apparently in 1984, there was a ceasefire between East and West Beirut during New Year's Eve to allow "superstar" Ragheb Alama to move freely between two restaurants at the two parts of Beirut with whom he had a contract. Of course, it could be an urban legend, but also this is to tell you that even during the height of the war parties were still raging in Lebanon. 
But this year, to quote ABBA "no more champagne and the fireworks are through".