The bar and nightclub chain, Holywings, has found itself in the middle of a public scandal this week after a drinks promotion has been branded as religiously blasphemy. Holywings has bars across Indonesia, mainly on Java, and are in the process of opening a new venue in Bali.
The new Holywings venue in Bali is touted to be not only the biggest beach club on the island but in all of Asia. Holywings’ stakeholders include well-known Indonesian media personalities like lawyer and TV host Hotman Paris, and social media influencer Nikita Mirzani.
Both Hotman Paris and Nikita Mirzani have taken to social media in a bid to quieten the rising tensions after Holywings in Jakarta launched an ill-thought-out drinks promotion.
All 12 outlets of Holywings in Jakarta have been closed down by local authorities and six employees have been arrested on a series of charges. The most significant charge is religiously blasphemy which is an increasingly sensitive subject in the Muslim majority country. They have also been charged with spreading religious hatred.
Six Holywings employees launched a drinks promotion last week in a bid to hit their sales targets. They posted on the Holywings social media platforms a promotion that offered a free bottle of gin for men named Mohammad and any women named Maria, every Thursday. Alcohol is not permitted under Islamic law, and although Jakarta is not governed under Islamic law, drinking is considered taboo by the Muslim community.
The post sparked an intense reaction online, there were hundreds of comments threatening to raid and destroy the bar before the post was taken down and police launched an investigation. On the evening of Friday 24th June, the six Holywings employees were arrested and within hours the 12 Jakarta-based outlets were closed down, and operating permits confiscated.
The Holywings management team has been quick to distance themselves from their employees stating that the promotion was launched without permission from management. Holywings issued apologies on their social media posts stating how the company employs over 3000 people across Indonesia and hopes that the company can cooperate with authorities and move forward. They noted that they have taken the criticisms and public opinions regarding negligence on board.
South Jakarta Police Chief Budhi Herdi Susianto confirmed the arrest and provided insight as to what the employees were thinking at the time ‘“The suspects made the content to attract customers to their outlets, especially those making less than 60% of their sales targets’’. The six now await trial and could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Despite the drinks promotion scandal and the intense media scrutiny, Holywings management and stakeholders are still promoting the brand’s latest project in Bali. According to influencer Nikita Mirzani the club that will be opening in July 2022, is hoped to be the biggest in Bali and in time, the greatest in all of Asia. It remains to be seen if authorities in Indonesia can move past this discretion or whether they want to see the situation escalated to ensure that Holywings’ operation is shut down for good.
Holywings Bali is the 28th outlet of the Indonesian-owned and operated chain. The Bali club will be set looking out onto Berawa Beach, close to Canggu’s leading beach clubs Potato Head, Cafe del Mar, and Finns Beach Club. Local newspapers reported that the construction of the venue required a team of over 300 people and is currently 80% completed.
Although there has been outrage across Java at the actions of Holywings employees, the communities in Bali have not responded with the same condemnation. Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the press that Indonesia’s blasphemy laws are becoming ‘increasingly dangerous’, especially regarding online activity. He stated how although the promotion was ‘ridiculous’ that it was not a crime.
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