Abu Dhabi drops the alcohol license system

Residents in the capital of the UAE were previously legally required to obtain a permit to consume alcohol in the capital

Krystien Meyers
September 22, 2020 12:31 PM

Licensed premises across the emirate were told of the decision this week, that residents and tourists no longer need to provide proof they are eligible, other than meeting the legal drinking age, to buy alcohol in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi residents will no longer need a licence to buy and drink alcohol, the authorities have said.

A note sent to distribution companies and retailers said they were not required to ask customers to produce a card that showed they were eligible to buy alcohol.

Customers must be at least 21 and the purchase should be for personal use, not resale.

Alcohol should also be consumed in private homes or licensed areas only.

The letter was issued by Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.

“We would like to announce the cancellation of alcohol licenses for individuals,” the circular said. “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.”

Eliminating the licenses also would decriminalize alcohol possession, although the Emirates maintains a strict no-tolerance policy on drunk driving and public intoxication.

Of recent, shops, bars and restaurants have seldom asked customers to show a licence, but customers were technically required to have one by law. The decision removes any grey area over the legalities.

In Dubai, residents are still required to have a license, and tourists wishing to buy alcohol must produce a valid visit visa. This year the city made it easier for residents to acquire a visa; you only now need to fill in a basic form and produce a valid Emirates ID as well as pay a small administration fee.

Alcohol is sold in six out of seven of the UAE's Emirate, with Sharjah remaining a dry state like its neighbours Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It is fair to note that these sales do provide a source of tax revenue for each Emirate as well as show a picture of growth for UAE and acceptance of its evergrowing expact workforce.

This year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Dubai made a series of changes to the alcohol licence system, making it easier for residents to acquire one and to ensure the law was clear. You can read more about the new Dubai alcohol license here.

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