Abu Haidar was the first to reopen a liquor store in Mosul after ISIS militants were driven away from that part of the city in January.
Although he keeps a low profile and his shop doesn’t even have a sign, Haidar enjoys a steady stream of customers every day. His shop offers a variety of brands of cheap vodka and whiskey, ouzo, arak (a regional anise-flavored spirit), Turkish and South Korean beer brands and even Miller and Heineken.
The young owner says that his shop in the eastern part of Mosul can have up to 1,000 visitors per day. According to him alcohol never disappeared from the city even after it was taken by ISIS in 2014 and declared the capital of their “caliphate”. It was only more expensive and very dangerous for those who consumed it.
“You only had smuggled alcohol — this bottle used to fetch 50,000 or 60,000 dinars,” he said, holding a quarter bottle of whisky. For a litre, you’d pay… up to $100.”
Now prices have returned to their pre-IS levels, and the quarter bottle costs around $5.
Haidar is a Muslim, unlike most liquor shop owner owners who are either Christian or Yazidi, but a friend convinced him to take advantage of this good business opportunity.
“For three years, people were deprived of it yet they had been used to it before. There used to be bars, clubs and casinos. All of them were closed and only now are people returning to drinking,” he said.