Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 July 2019

Dubai to offer tourists temporary alcohol licences to close legal loophole

The permit, available for the first time, is free and lasts for 30 days

The Dubai skyline. Reuters
The Dubai skyline. Reuters

Tourists can now obtain a temporary alcohol licence when visiting Dubai in a move that closes a long-standing legal loophole.

The measure rolled out this summer is intended to ensure visitors remain on the right side of the law.

Until now only Dubai visa holders have been eligible for a two-year licence that allows them to buy alcohol from shops and store it at home. In addition, anyone drinking in the city's bars and restaurants should technically have a licence, though they do not ask to see one.

Retailers MMI and African + Eastern are working with the authorities to manage the licence system.

Applicants can present their passport to the stores and sign a form stating they are not a UAE resident and they will abide by the country’s rules regarding the consumption of alcohol.

African and Eastern's website also informs tourists of the procedure to obtain a temporary alcohol licence.
African and Eastern's website also informs tourists of the procedure to obtain a temporary alcohol licence.

“This is a welcome development that shows that the government in Dubai is open-minded and has respect for other cultures,” said Yousef Al Bahar, a Dubai lawyer who had previously called for the introduction of a temporary alcohol licence.

“Tourists will still have to obey the laws around alcohol just like everyone else. They can’t drink it in public places and will face prosecution if they are driving after having consumed alcohol.”

Several Dubai judges have previously admitted that alcohol laws "forgot about tourists".

The system meant that tourists had no way to buy alcohol legally, though police typically only take action if a drinker is involved in a separate offence.

MMI and African + Eastern have guidelines on their websites as to the procedure to obtain the licences.

The licence, which is free of charge, is only open to non-Muslims above the age of 21.

The website of retailer MMI offers advice for tourists on how to get their alcohol licence.
The website of retailer MMI offers advice for tourists on how to get their alcohol licence.

Once the form has been completed, the store will then take a copy of both the passport and the entry stamp.

Each applicant is also issued with a guideline to responsible drinking in Dubai.

Only last year the British Consulate in the UAE warned visitors about the risks of purchasing and consuming alcohol in Dubai without a licence.

“If caught carrying or drinking alcohol without a licence or with alcohol in your blood, you can be arrested,” read a post on the consulate’s Facebook page.

“It is a punishable offence to be under the influence of alcohol in public – including when transiting through the UAE.”

Last year, Ellie Holman, a Swedish doctor, made headlines across the world when she claimed she was arrested because she had drank a complimentary glass of wine on an Emirates flight to Dubai.

It later transpired she had had tried to enter the country with an expired Swedish passport and then used an Iranian passport without a visa, before shouting offensive comments at customs officers. But inaccurate media reports in the UK created confusion over the alcohol system.

Dubai Tourism, MMI and African + Eastern were all approached for comment.

Updated: July 11, 2019 01:01 PM

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