Abu Dhabi scraps liquor license requirement for alcohol purchases

People in the emirate now need only be of age and in a certified drinking area such as a bar to consume alcohol.

al-monitor A bartender serves customers at a restaurant in Dubai on Aug. 30, 2018. Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images.

Topics covered

alcohol, tourism, israel-uae ties, united arab emirates, abu dhabi

Sep 22, 2020

Abu Dhabi is no longer requiring people to have a license to obtain alcohol. The new measure comes as the United Arab Emirates seeks to boost its hospitality industry amid the continued pandemic.

The UAE capital city’s Department of Culture and Tourism informed liquor dealers of the decision on Monday. The new rules stipulate that people need only be 21 years old and consume the alcohol at home or in a licensed area, such as a bar or hotel, The Associated Press reported.

The Department of Culture and Tourism has not made an official public announcement about the measure.

Previously, people in Abu Dhabi needed to show a license to buy alcohol in liquor stores, bars and restaurants, though the rule was rarely enforced. In the Emirates’ other major city, Dubai, liquor store purchases require a license, but buying booze in a bar or restaurant does not. Dubai also made obtaining the licenses easier this year, including allowing tourists to obtain a temporary one with their passport, according to the Abu-Dhabi based news outlet The National.

Abu Dhabi is not yet open to foreign tourists, but the emirate is looking for ways to boost hospitality revenues. This month, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism instructed hotels to add kosher dining options to their menus in anticipation of the arrival of religious Jewish tourists following the normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel.

On Saturday, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island will begin hosting the second “Fight Island” for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The major mixed martial arts event will not have spectators, but the fighters and their teams will be allowed to move around the luxurious complex freely following testing and a quarantine.

The United Arab Emirates as a whole is contending with an outbreak of COVID-19 and the country is registering all-time highs in daily cases. Last week, Emirati authorities approved the use of an emergency vaccine for high-risk workers.

People entering Abu Dhabi by air must now wear a wristband to track their movements as they undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine. Dubai is more relaxed and continues to welcome tourists.

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