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Thu 20 Jun 2019 11:21 AM

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Is Saudi Arabia ready for a halal nightclub?

The Dubai nightlife brand has reopened as a 'lounge' in Jeddah after being briefly shut down on opening night

Is Saudi Arabia ready for a halal nightclub?
White operates as a licensed nightclub in Dubai and Beirut

June 13 saw Saudi Arabia open its first-ever halal nightclub, White, in Jeddah.

A few hours later, it was briefly shut down by authorities due to regulatory issues, before reopening again the next day. It has since received mixed reviews from Saudis, with conservative critics condemning its dancefloor, and others welcoming its halal bar.

Serge Trad, Strategic Communications Planning at owning company Addmind Hospitality Group, refused to comment on the backlash from Saudis, but told Arabian Business the venue is now operating as usual.

“We were in fact open on Thursday [but] we closed 2 hours prior to our scheduled closing time 2am instead of 4am. We then re-opened Friday and Saturday. And have now announced on our channels that we are open from Wednesdays to Saturdays, from 9pm to 2am,” he said in an email statement.

White operates in Dubai and Beirut as a licensed venue and is famous for hosting celebrity artists in live performances. While White Jeddah also features a club-like dancefloor and full-on ‘halal’ bar, a customer service representative at the venue told Arabian Business, “It’s not a nightclub. It’s a lounge and it’s operating very well now...”

At the time of White’s closure in Jeddah, the Saudi General Authority for Entertainment said in a tweet that Project X, the festival in which the nightclub was operating, “had not been licensed” and had led to “a violation of legal proceedings”.

It said it had agreed to a different event and that its contractor had “taken advantage” of an extension of that license to commit “unacceptable violations”.

The ‘lounge’ had been shut down ahead of the arrival of its headline act, American singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, who apologised to his 3 million fans on Instagram.

“Apologies to the people of Jeddah. On the way to the venue, I was informed it had been shut down. Guess we’ll try it again another time. Much love to my folks at White,” he said in a post.

Addmind’s Trad said the venue is working on refunding the price of opening nights tickets, which ranged from $100 to $133 (370-500 Saudi riyals).

White Jeddah’s Instagram page, which was also taken down at the time, is now operating and states that the venue is open, with entry age limit set at 18.

The brand is one of several owned by Dubai-based Addmind, which runs venues including Indie restaurant and lounge, Italian kitchen Matto, rooftop lounge Iris, Drai’s beach club and many more in Dubai and Beirut.

Addmind is also finalising a café version of its Iris lounge in Jeddah. The rooftop venue will play music and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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