Dubai has further relaxed laws regarding alcohol sales and possession of liquor as the emirate tries to strengthen its economy, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
While the virus outbreak has already caused mass layoffs and thinning of its expat workforce, the real estate market is also on its way to hit record lows seen in the 2009 Great Recession.
The Managing Director for the UAE and Oman for alcohol distributor Maritime and Mercantile International (MMI), Mike Glen said “It’s been a challenging year and there is no hiding from this fact for any business, particularly those in the hospitality industry.”
Alcohol sales have long been a major barometer of the Dubai economy. Being home to the long-haul carrier Emirates, Dubai is also a top travel destination. Ice-cold bottles of beer tempt tourists on hotel beaches, while decadent champagne-soaked brunches draw in well-to-do crowds of expat residents. The sale is a major tax revenue source for Dubai’s Al Maktoum ruling family.
In Dubai, alcohol sales in general reflect the confidence of buyers in their own finances, and in turn, the economy. The sales already showed the trouble Dubai faced with falling global energy prices and a weakening real estate market.
Sales of alcohol by volume fell sharply last year, touching 34 million gallons, marking a decrease of 3.5 percent from 35.2 million gallons sold the previous year. The 2019 sales indicate a 9 percent decline from 2017, when 37.3 million gallons were sold, as per Euromonitor statistics.
During the lockdown, Dubai’s two major alcohol distributors began illegal home deliveries of alcohol for the first time hoping to boost sales.
Now, Dubai has changed the process of granting permission to residents to legally purchase alcohol.
As per law, non-Muslim residents are required to carry red plastic cards issued by the Dubai Police which permits them to purchase, transport, and consume beer, wine and liquor. In case of violation, they are likely to face fines and imprisonment. However, often, the bars, nightclubs and lounges in Dubai do not ask for the permit.
At present, the red cards have be substituted by a black card, and a simplified application process, which requires only an Emirati national ID card.
The application does not require an employer’s permission. Earlier, employers had the right to block non-Muslims from obtaining a card, even though the employee was qualified for it. Earlier, there have been incidents wherein expats working for Emirati companies had owners who had religious objections to alcohol.
Now, the purchase restrictions based on salaries have been eased too.