Monday, February 9, 2009

Rakı & Meyhane Culture in Jeopardy

From the Guardian:
Mass job losses and a government attempt to secure a £17bn IMF loan were signs that Turkey's economy was wilting in the global recession. Now the traditional meyhane - tavern - is providing proof that hard times have indeed arrived.

Raki, the aniseed-flavoured aperitif central to Turkish culture and a favourite tipple of the modern state's founder, Ataturk, has been displaced by beer as the favourite drink.

Bar owners in Istanbul's fashionable Nevizade market, a warren of taverns and restaurants that once finished off 100 crates of raki a day, have seen sales plummet by 30% in a year as customers order cheaper alternatives. Tough economic conditions have combined with a private consumption tax to price raki increasingly out of the market, traders say.

Even Beyoglu district's more bohemian establishments, which have tried to uphold Turkish drinking traditions, have recorded a 20% drop. At the same time there has been a 40% jump in beer sales, mostly benefiting the popular local brewer Efes. Half a litre of Efes sells for 80p in some supermarkets, while the same amount of raki costs 10 times as much.

"People have turned to lower-priced alcoholic beverages," Tulay Ece Guneysu, president of the Nevizade artisans' association, told Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review. "Today the consumption of raki has dropped to 80 crates per day. The consumption of beer is at about 10 50-litre barrels a day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays."
For more in Hürriyet, click here.

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