Qatar clamps down on hotel alcohol sales

Four Seasons, St. Regis and Ritz Carlton all cancel events at weekend
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A written notice to five star hotels in Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol in swimming pool areas or on the beach (Image for illustrative purposes only).
A written notice to five star hotels in Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol in swimming pool areas or on the beach (Image for illustrative purposes only).

Authorities in Qatar issued a written notice to hotel managers at the weekend banning the sale of alcohol in swimming pool areas or on the beach, leading to the last minute cancellation of some beach parties around the capital Doha, it was reported.

The Four Seasons, St. Regis and the Ritz Carlton hotels all cancelled their beach parties at the weekend as a result of the notice, which was issued on Thursday, Doha News confirmed.

Officials have not yet commented on whether the new notice is a new regulation or the reinforcement of an existing rule, the report added.

It is not the first time Qatar has moved to clampdown on the sale of alcohol.

In December 2011 a controversial ban on alcohol at Qatar's manmade Pearl-Qatar development led to the closure of several high profile restaurants.

In January, celebrity UK 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,” Ramsay was quoted as saying by Doha News.

The sale of alcohol is strictly monitored in five of the Gulf states with Saudi Arabia operating an outright ban on the sale and consumption of liquor.

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The move to offer alcohol licenses to outlets and non-Muslims is largely a nod to the region’s expatriate workers, who vastly outnumber the local population. But the decision has been met with criticism from some citizens who oppose the sale of liquor in Muslim countries.

A number of Gulf states have seen conflicts over alcohol regulations in recent years. Pressure groups in Bahrain forced the closure of bars and clubs in the Gulf state’s three-star hotels in 2009, while Oman has chosen to confine the sale of booze to certain hotels and restaurants.

Dubai, widely seen as the Gulf’s most tolerant market, in June 2011 banned standalone bars and restaurants from displaying alcohol behind their bars.

Outlets licensed to serve alcohol but located outside hotels were forced to tint glass doors on fridges, move entire displays and even re-design whole bar areas to comply with the ban.

Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, head of Hotel Advisory, for MENA at Jones Lang LaSalle, said in January 2012 the open sale of alcohol was always a “delicate balance” for Gulf governments.

“Sometimes, local public opinion is heated up on the back of a combination of factors. It is common for authorities in these cases to act swiftly in order to defuse tension and prevent the issue from heating up further and getting out of control,” he said.

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