There were always seedy nightclubs that catered to whiskey-swilling men tucked into the half-cellars of buildings along Saadoun Street downtown. The old elite have long been members of one of several country clubs that stayed open late. Young working-class men played dominos and smoked shisha at Beiruti, a riverside cafe.
But what’s new is families hitting the town until late. Restaurants, including the Turkish chain Mado, have arrived, often opening in the city’s increasingly ubiquitous shopping malls. Few serve alcohol, but many serve shisha into the night.
As security has improved, restaurant owners say they are pushing their closing times into the early morning hours, mostly because employees feel safer getting home late. “Before, at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., we’d have to start wrapping up,” said Dhiaa Adel, the 34-year-old manager at the Mansour branch of Saj al-Reef, an upscale Iraqi restaurant chain. “Now it’s different. I go home at 4 a.m.”