Monday, June 26, 2023

Skybar: a witness to the economic disparity in Lebanon

I have spoken about the economic disparity prior (more clearly here) and about the prohibitive rates of beach resorts (here), and too many times about the price of this and that for the average Lebanese (whatever "average" means). Still, there is always that one indicator that makes your eyes pop.
A lot of people are not aware that - aside from the Palestinian issue - economic and social disparity was among the chief factors that precipitated the war in Lebanon. Please re-read the passage I wrote in 2019 here about the "revolution" that was going on:
"People forget or disregard how much economic disparity between classes actually helped ignite the events in 1975 which culminated in the all out war. I remember what someone in the Lebanese Communist Party told me in an interview: "All I wanted was enough fare to pay a "service" (shared taxi) - not to participate in the upscale events, but to see then from afar". Naturally, like in every revolution or upheaval - there are the dreamers or idealists who want a far fetched goal such as "bring the system down" or something like that. And these abound in Lebanon."
Which brings us to 2023 and the ever-more widening gap. Sure, a lot of people, including myself, have lost whatever they stashed at the bank - some of us are getting it back (or partially) in pennies basically. Other families have people abroad who send them money - remittances have reached 6.8 Billion Dollars last year. Apparently, tourism and remittances account for 86% of the GDP at this point in Lebanon. 
Also, according to figures - whereas more than 500 HORECA (hotels/restaurants/cafe) establishments closed down following the explosion of 2020, figures indicate that in the last few months 280 new restaurants have popped up in Beirut as of late. Batroun is now booming with restaurants, guesthouses, and other assortment of touristic establishments. Prestigious hotels such as The Monroe and The Grey are reopening as well.
Skybar, one of the hottest and more ubiquitous places to party in Beirut is opening this week (June 28th) and its prices are what you would expect in a country with an economy which is exploding. Except that Lebanon's economy is not.
900 to 2500 USD for a table or a lounge (which fits 15 people, yay!). Prices are naturally eye-wateringly high.
But let me give you this other example. When May Hariri - who at the time was an "it" girl in the Lebanese clubs - was asked in 1989 (Miss Hariri would go on to marry then divorce the late great Melhem Barakat) how she was going to get the astronomic sum of 600 USD to do her nose job, she retorted "Allah bi dabber". God will provide.
In a society built on the m'as-tu-vu (have you seen me) and keeping up with the Joneses I guarantee you Skybar will be full.