No more alcohol license required; Abu Dhabi introduces new regulations

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Abu Dhabi Bar
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Drinkers in Abu Dhabi will no longer need a license to buy, store and consume alcohol in the emirate as the Department of Culture and Tourism removed the present licensing system for liquor purchases. 

Earlier, individuals required to have a special license to buy, carry and store alcohol at their homes.

The revision of policy was shared in a new circular issued by authorities last week to distributors and liquor stores but was not publically revealed.

The new regulations allow everyone including Muslims who were earlier barred from purchasing alcohol to buy, carry and consume it in their private homes or specially designated spaces such as bars as long as they are above 21 years old.

“Residents and tourists will be permitted to buy and possess alcohol from licensed retail shops, and are allowed to drink within tourism and hotel establishments, clubs and independent outlets,” the circular stated.

While consumption of alcohol now remains prevalent in the entire UAE, Sharjah has still remained a dry state. UAE’s neighbors Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran have also stayed away from any reforms on this front.

The sale and consumption of alcohol at bars is considered as one of the most lucrative source of income to the UAE government. The earnings from them have become much more important in the recovering economy of these regions post the pandemic-driven slowdown.

UK-based market research and statistics firm EuroMonitor reported that the overall alcohol consumption in UAE has been on a decline in the last few years. 2019 recorded overall consumption volumes at 128.79 million, a 3.5 percent decrease compared to the same period a year earlier.

Statistics suggest that the UAE’s overall alcohol consumption volumes have decreased close to 9 percent from the comparable volumes in 2017.