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Sat 21 Dec 2013 11:53 AM

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Dubai must rethink alcohol law, says top lawyer

Emirati lawyer Yousef Al Baher says current system is confusing for tourists

Dubai must rethink alcohol law, says top lawyer
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

A leading Emirati lawyer has called for an overhaul of Dubai’s alcohol laws, saying tourists were unwittingly breaking the law while on holidays and they should be able to get an alcohol licence along with their visa on arrival.

Yousef Al Baher told Arabian Business that the current system was confusing.

Under local law, alcohol consumption is only permitted in designated areas such as bars attached to hotels.

Tourists and residents can drink in these locations without holding a licence to buy alcohol. However, once outside the permitted area they can be arrested if brought to the attention of police if they are found to be drunk and disorderly in a public area or drink-driving.

Al Baher said residents were made aware of the need to obtain an alcohol licence, but tourists may not realise they also technically needed one.

However, he said given the application process involved – with applicants required to prove they are non-Muslim, aged 21 or older and earning more than AED3,000 ($817) per month – it was impossible for tourists to obtain a licence.

“Why don’t we give them temporary [alcohol] cards for all visitors,” he said.

Al Baher said the government could charge a small fee for the licence, which could be provided on arrival at Dubai airport.

Providing an alcohol licence would also enable tourists to purchase alcohol at MMI shops, he said.

Al Baher said the UAE was a tolerant society and recognised that in other religions alcohol was permitted.

“Tourists, when they are coming here… [it’s] only through hotels [they are allowed] to have alcohol,” he said.

“Why they don’t give them permission? It is allowed on their religion. As an Islamic country in Dubai, we respect all religions. Why not give them permission to buy alcohol?”

Al Baher said the idea had come up among lawyers who had dealt with a lot of cases involving illegal drinking and it had been shared with people higher up.

He said he had experienced cases where tourists were involved in brawls while under the influence of alcohol and arrested by police.

“The procedure in Dubai takes six to eight months,” he said of the court system. “They come to Dubai with €2,000, what are they going to do?

He said in other cases, tourists knew the rules but ignored them. “You cannot drive a car with alcohol in Europe, but here they are driving cars, they don’t care,” he said.

Al Baher said it was up to the government how it wanted to handle the issue, but he believed it needed to do something.

“We need the law to become more flexible and quicker.”

Shaista Ahmed 5 years ago

“Why they don’t give them permission? It is allowed on their religion. As an Islamic country in Dubai, we respect all religions. Why not give them permission to buy alcohol?” - What an irony!

Sad *Sigh*

Define Freedom 5 years ago

“We need the law to become more flexible and quicker.”

kingkaiser 5 years ago

If they can only be arrested for intoxication while being drunk & disorderly or driving under the influence, I don't see the problem...These are illegal everywhere (and should be).

That having been said, if people are being imprisoned simply for consuming alcohol in a place that legally sells it, then its a completely different consideration.

Mick 5 years ago

Agreed on all fronts. There should be zero tolerance for drunken driving. It happens far too often here.
I've always found it very ironic that for a semi-conservative society that does allow non-muslims to consume alcohol....why are patrons being allowed to get "fall down" drunk? I know that when I was bartending back home in Canada, it was forbidden, by law, to serve anyone if they seemed intoxicated. In fact, the bar could be sued if someone exited the bar and fell down and hurt themselves. In Dubai, where it should be slightly more strict on consumption, someone would be crawling to the bar for another pint, unable to speak and they STILL get served. I'm all for a good time but some "dominant" cultures here are really out of control and are not being reigned in on their consumption. Bartenders, servers and management of establishments that serve alcohol should be 1) educated in service of alcohol and 2) less subservient to patrons demanding more when they can hardly stand.

Louie Tedesco 5 years ago

The media have many times reported on the need to obtain an alcohol license if planning to drink in Dubai. The law which requires the alcohol license applies to both residents and tourists, including alcoholic beverages purchased in duty free shops and those consumed in hotels. Visiting friends have never been able to discover the procedures for them to obtain an alcohol license, prompting many to never return as they feared legal troubles. It would be helpful to all visitors for someone to provide guidance in order to prevent legal problems that may be experienced by holding alcohol or by consuming it whether in homes, pubs, clubs or hotels.

Expat08 5 years ago

The rules are clear. Tourists and residents can only drink at the hotel where they spend the night (residents need a license). Residents can drink at home if they have a license.

Mohammed 5 years ago

there is no religion in the world allowed drinking alcohol, and if we respect our religion we will not accept this talk, alcohol and sex out of marriage is a crime and sin, and it is shame that Muslims asking and fighting for permission.

So Sad 5 years ago

What you say is true but unfortunately most Muslim countries put their religion on the back burner to make money and satisfy everyone else instead of standing up and saying No! we do not allow alcohol and No! we don't allow Christmas and Halloween celebrations. The world will end soon enough, I hope they change their ways soon.

wissam 5 years ago

Thank you for clarifying what others should and should not do with their lives. I would like to also encourage a "fasting police" during ramadan. I suggest a medical test done on everyone to ensure they are observing the fast. While we're at it, let's make sure everyone prays five times a day, with all divergences punishable by prison.

That, or we can simply let adults decide each on their own how they want to live their life and let god be the judge.

procan 5 years ago

Mick is spot on, in Ontario all servers of alcohol must take a course upon completion receive a " Smart Serve Card" and have it on your person while at work. If a customer leaves the Club drunk you can be held responsible for there actions in a court law.