In dispiriting news for many outdoor drinking enthusiasts, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has admitted that it is mulling draft regulation that would outlaw the sidewalk sale of beer throughout Vietnam.
Unsurprisingly, the proposed ban has been met with vicious criticism and a certain level of bafflement from much of the populace – sidewalk beer sales and the associated drinking are a common sight throughout the country.
Additionally, the proposed ban would prevent the sale of beer in hospitals, schools, and offices. Presumably, thirsty workers and students will still be allowed to bring their own beer to their respective locations.
Breastfeeding mothers will also not be allowed to buy beer. However, the government does not make clear how they will check to see if the women are breastfeeding (or if the beer seller must check themselves).
Part of the government’s argument against the sidewalk speakeasies is that they are blocking the way of pedestrians. While this is undoubtedly true, as far as it goes, there is little explanation as to why beer sales have been targeted as opposed to the vast array of other types of goods that are for sale on the same sidewalks.
Any person who has walked the streets of Hanoi or HCMC knows that it is often necessary to weave between numerous food stalls and knick knack sellers. Additionally, often the only reprieve from the heat and noise of the city is to stop in one of the many Bia Hoi and slump down into a small plastic chair for a cold, and cheap, beer.
There’s a good chance this legislation will never really get off the ground. Beer drinking is probably too much ingrained into the lives of many Vietnamese to try and force new habits upon them. The Vietnamese, as a nation, consume the third highest amount of beer in Asia, behind only China and Japan. In 2013, the Vietnamese drank more than 2.9 billion liters of beer.
The ban could also end up hurting tourism, particularly in the backpacking areas of the cities, where foreigners take great pleasure in the outdoor drinking festivities and the opportunity to soak up local culture in more ways than one.
For those beer lovers and binge drinkers who still harbor worries and fears of being forced to take their beers inside, the best suggestion is to live up the freedom to drink wherever you want while it still exists.