UK celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has hit out at an alcohol ban introduced on the Pearl-Qatar in 2011 which led to the closing of his restaurant at the development, and said he does not see the legislation “lasting much longer”, it was reported.
Ramsay closed down his Maze Doha restaurant in March 2012 after just two years of operation, while many restaurateurs operating on the Pearl-Qatar development said they had seen revenues decline by as much as 50 percent in the six months immediately after the alcohol ban was introduced in December 2011.
“I think the legislation in terms of operating restraints - going out for dinner and not being allowed to have a glass of wine - I think it’s one turn-off for any local,” he was quoted as saying by Doha News, while on a visit to the city to open two new restaurants at the St Regis Hotel.
“We had to make sensible commercial decisions - you’re not going to run that restaurant and look stupid and lose thousands on a weekly basis.”
“When we look at the legislation with the alcohol ban, I’d much rather see a smoking ban than an alcohol ban,” the three Michelin starred chef added.
Several international firms have scrapped plans to open new restaurants in the wake of the ban. US-based Ruth’s Chris Steak House said in June it was about to sign a deal for the Pearl-Qatar, but pulled out at the last minute when the ban was imposed.
“In Qatar we are suffering – business has dropped almost 45 percent and unfortunately there is no indication about the ban being lifted. It is very unfortunate for us and for the entire Pearl [project],” Raffaele Ruggeri, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Italian chain of restaurants, Bice, said last summer.
While Ramsay said western restaurants must “respect the culture” he said change was likely to happen in the coming years as the Gulf state gears up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“If that’s their culture and it’s being governed by the ministers then, I’m sure that will be out for scrutiny and change. But the world is moving fast and once the World Cup is nearing I’m sure things will change. I can’t see that legislation lasting much longer.”
Hospitality analyst Guy Wilkinson warned in June 2012 that “restaurants that cannot easily adapt their menus and concepts to a clientele that appreciates a purely dry offer will only be able to survive a few months more. I feel sure that other restaurants will follow suit [and close down].”