The proposed regulation has dominated the national conversation for weeks. Opponents, including chambers of commerce around the country, warn that it will damage an already suffering economy. Those who work night shifts will lose their jobs and, with Egyptians unable to shop late, sales will be stifled and small businesses will be forced to lay off workers, they say.

Others argue that it is biased against the poor, given that venues catering to rich Egyptians will be able to get tourist licenses â¿¿ which are not necessarily linked to actual business with tourists â¿¿ at a time when small business owners are struggling to make ends meet because of the economic crisis.

"I wish that President Mohammed Morsi would make decisions that put the poor people ahead of the rich," said Ibrahim Mohammed, referring to the country's Islamist leader, now in his fourth month in office. Mohammed owns a street kiosk that sells cookies and cigarettes in central Cairo and stays open until midnight.

Opponents argue it will be virtually be impossible to enforce. Cairo, home to an estimated 18 million people, has hundreds of thousands of small businesses found on almost every street, alley and lane. Some, like eateries, juice shops and pharmacies, never close. Night-owl Egyptians are accustomed to being able to buy virtually anything, while away the time at a coffee shop or even get a haircut at any time of night.

Some warn that penalties could even spark violence at a time when Morsi's government is struggling to restore law and order amid the turmoil since last year's fall of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

"Maybe the government will try to force this on us, but that will never work with Egyptians," said Anwar Eid, whose spices and dry goods store in Cairo's middle class Dokki district has been in the family for seven generations.

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