Pearl Qatar says alcohol ban has boosted visits

Developer also in talks for more retail and F&B outlets

A controversial ban on alcohol at Qatar's manmade Pearl-Qatar development has not impacted negatively on the project as visitor numbers to the area have increased and the developer is in talks to launch more restaurants, retail outlets, a cinema and a supermarket, a senior executive told Arabian Business.

When the ban on the sale of alcohol was introduced in December 2011 some restaurants reported revenues had slumped by up to 50 percent, with others being forced to close within a matter of months.

Despite this, Ehab Kamel, general manager of retail leasing at the Pearl Qatar, argued the development actually registered an increase in visitors over the last year and a half. "The traffic of people increased, it (the alcohol ban) reflects very positively," Kamel said.

In January, British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay weighed in on the row, which led to the closure of his Maze restaurant in March 2012 after just two years of operation.

“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.

Earlier this year, real estate firm DTZ Middle East Head of Valuation, Edward Brookes, also told Arabian Business lifting the ban on alcohol on Pearl-Qatar could lead to a resurgence in the number of tourists patronising the development.

Kamel said developer UDC, which last month reported its net profits for the first quarter rose 16 percent year-on-year to QR229m, was in talks to boost the retail and food and beverage options available on the Pearl Qatar.

"We are signing with Ali Bin Ali for luxury watches and jewelry, we are doing the design of the store and discussing to take more brands... We are discussing with Blue Saloon as well," Kamel said.

A 10-screen cinema complex will open by the end of this year, along with several restaurants including Nandos and Red Lobster and a 4,000sqm Spinneys outlet.

Kamel also claimed rental rates were not being dropped in a bid to attract more tenants: "Our retail rentals are competitive. We are signing good deals and that means that retail rentals are acceptable.”

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Posted by: Expat

The Pearl has become a ghost town. I run there and am amazed at how empty the place is despite the excellent setting - a marina.

The thing is, people who have money want to spend it in trendy restaurants, even if they do not drink alcohol. They want to eat at restaurants filled with the beautiful crowd, and this can only be in restaurants which serve alcohol and attract expats.

In short: the Pearl is 0ut of fashion.

Posted by: Doug

I would be interested to know what the visitor figures were before and after the ban. At the moment, we just have vague speculation from Ehab Kamel, who offers absolutely no evidence or factual information to verify that there has been an increase in year-on-year visitors.

Given the very mealy-mouthed answer ("there's been more visitors since the ban"), logically, just one person has to visit the Pearl for them to say there have been more visitors - as Ehab Kamel says NOTHING about visitor growth. In other words, says there were 2 million visitors for the period 2011. Now say for the period 2011 AND 2012, there were 2,000,001 visitors (ie. one person visits in 2012). Mr Kamel can then claim there were more visits after the ban! Give us the facts!

Posted by: Really?

I moved away from TPQ last year because of the ban. My wife would frequently go to finer restaurants and spend QR 1200-1500 each week but decided that if we must get a taxi to go somewhere else then we may as well move. Good luck with the ice cream/coffee shops and Red're gonna need it.

Posted by: Steven

I love popping to The Pearl when I feel like embracing the quietness of a library, or maybe when I need to buy a Ferrari or some overpriced Armani clothes. I especially adore trying to work out the puzzle of what the people in the full length pictures over the windows of the 50% of empty shops there are pointing at, as they gasp things like 'Ooooh look at that!'' or ''Fabulous!'' I also like the cat and mouse game played with investors as they have no alcohol at first, (and no one complained), then they introduce it, then ban it, a really ''different'' business model for looking at attracting clients.

Posted by: AlexDon

I'm not sure what's the big fuss is all about.
As far as I'm concern things are rather simple, a Sharia compliant investor comes in to the picture and they expect that their investment is Sharia compliant (No alcohol).
Developer does what developers do (spin a yearn)...... Ok, no very Sharia, but then developers sell at profit......
On a more human level, the "Manager" does what he has to do (PR) to keep his job, the Licensed restaurants complaint, do their sums and move to hotels and so life goes on.
In my opinion the issue is it not Alcohol or Not Alcohol, but the way it was handled (nothing new there really).

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