Qatar restaurants see trade slump after alcohol ban

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The Pearl-Qatar island is a popular expatriate and tourist spot

The Pearl-Qatar island is a popular expatriate and tourist spot

Restaurants and bars on Qatar’s flagship Pearl development have seen revenues slump by more than 50 percent in the wake of a new ruling banning the sale of alcohol to customers.

Outlets on the manmade island off the coast of Doha were told on Dec 12 they could no longer serve booze to guests in what is seen as a display of tension between Qatar’s Muslim culture and its largely expatriate population.

Managers of restaurants located on the popular tourist spot said they had received no explanation for the ban or any indication on whether it might be lifted in the future.

“Every restaurant on the Pearl is banned [from selling alcohol]. We were told around mid-December,” said Sumeet Jhingan, country manager for Foodmark, the hospitality arm of retail giant Landmark Group. “We don’t know if it is indefinite, there was nothing in writing or communicated to us as to how long it is going to last.”

Foodmark, which counts brands such as Carluccio’s, The Meat Company and Mango Tree in its restaurant portfolio, operates two outlets on Pearl-Qatar.

“Obviously the business has dropped; by half… for some restaurants, probably even more,” Jhingan said.

Staff at Maze, the restaurant owned by British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay that opened on the island in 2010, said business has tumbled in the wake of the alcohol ban.

“I would say [the decline] is even more than 50 percent,” a spokesperson told Arabian Business. “It is not only Maze… all the restaurants have stopped serving. There are a lot of rumours, we are waiting in great anticipation that [the ban will be lifted].”

United Development Company, the developer behind the Pearl-Qatar, declined to comment when contacted by Arabian Business.

Qatar has shot to fame in recent years, thanks in part to an ambitious investment strategy that saw it snap up trophy assets such as Harrods, and stakes in Barclays, J Sainsbury’s and the London Stock Exchange.

The wealthy Gulf emirate in 2010 won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, the first Arab country to do so. Doha has pledged to spend some $88bn on infrastructure and hotels over the next decade as it gears up to hold the world’s most-watched sporting event.

But the country’s rapid modernisation has raised fears among the local population that Qatar’s national identity could be diluted by the influx of expatriates and foreign investment.

Qatar Airways, Doha’s flag carrier, is currently the subject of a Twitter campaign that calls, in part, for a ban on serving alcohol on its flights in line with Islamic values.

The sale of alcohol requires a delicate balance with cultural mores and the suspension could be seen as a reminder of these “red lines”, said Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, head of Hotel Advisory, for MENA at Jones Lang LaSalle.

“There was perhaps a perception that grew and spread that the Pearl represents some form of ‘extra territoriality’ when it comes to alcohol and lifestyle. Some sort of ‘free zone’,” he said. “The suspension came to set the record straight.”

Jhingan said Foodmark has suspended plans to open two restaurants and a club on the Pearl-Qatar, home to an estimated 41,000 residents, until the ban on alcohol is clarified.

“Pearl is a destination; it is not a mall. It must be populated so everyone is suffering as without alcohol people do not frequent it as much,” he said. “This not only affects us but also other big names that were coming to the region.”

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Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Ali

Alcohol is back in The Pearl starting today :) freedom of choice

Posted by: Red Snappa

Have just read the following quote from FIFA, thought it worth sharing as none of the football stadiums for the 2022 World Cup have links to hotels. Qatar has to accept alcohol as widespread as it can get at World Cup served with a hamburger, hot dog, Shawarma etc.

"Beer 'must be sold' at Brazil World Cup, says Fifa"

Apparently it is mandatory that beer should be sold at all stadiums hosting football matches in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, world governing body, FIFA, has demanded.

Fifa General Secretary Jerome Valcke insists that the right to sell beer must be encapsulated in a World Cup law which the Brazilian Congress has under review.

Alcoholic drinks are presently banned in Brazilian stadiums, Brazil's health minister has pushed Congress to keep the ban in the new law.

The brewer Budweiser is a major Fifa sponsor.

Mr Valcke is off to Brazil demanding progress on a heavily delayed World Cup law.

Posted by: Austin

No Problem. Plenty of non-alchoholic beer brands available.

Allow beer. Just ban Alchohol.

Posted by: mohammed

i have a question.
What are the companies that might be affected after alcohol was banned.... and what the negatives and positives under this topic?

Posted by: Layth Al Arab

This typical of Qatary gyrations !
Its Ruler is trying to project modernity and a desparate attempt at leading the Arab World. Qatar was quick to send the millions of dollars the Islamists in Tunisia and Egypt to win the elections, to Libya to remove Kadafi and now to Syria. Encouraging right wing Islamists will soon come back to haunt them. forbidding alcohol is a clear sign in this direction.

Posted by: Sam

@Layth - what is an "Islamist"? Would it not be nice if you actually used proper terminology instead of terms cooked up by foreign media which actually have a (scare) agenda, but truly have no real meaning. Guess u watch too much of Murdoch's Fox news :(

Also, your allegation that Qatar is "encouraging right wing Islamists" is untrue; and banning alcohol has nothing to do with this as you suggest. The Qatari Emir was recently on a secret visit to Israel (search Google for video clip of the visit), so this is diplomacy really, and YES, I do agree they are trying to lead the Arab world. Its a shame that the giant next door (Saudis) are still in slumber....

Posted by: Oodi

Licensed outlets (selling alcohol) attract different type of customers and category of spendors than unliscenced outlets (not selling alcohol). Both may work well if marketed and designed properly. However, this should have been thought of by the Developers upon initiating the project to set the business plan/ project brief accordingly. The sudden change may expose the young market in Qatar to be considered by regional and international investors as 'not reliable' or/and 'not suitable long-term investments'.

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