Dubai residents and tourists need an alcohol licence to purchase alcohol from a shop, transport it, or drink at home/hotel room, or store it at home.
Technically, an alcohol licence is needed to consume alcoholic drinks in a bar or restaurant in Dubai. In practice this rule is seldom enforced. It is almost unheard of for bar staff or waiters to ask to see an alcohol licence before serving a customer.
Requirements and Procedures for Dubai Residents
Alcohol licence requirements for persons living in Dubai were relaxed in 2019. Prior to this, residents needed to satisfy minimum monthly salary criteria and provide documents such as tenancy contracts, salary certificates etc.
The new application procedures require only:
- Passport copy
- Emirates ID copy
- Dubai Residents Visa copy
- Passport photo
- Licence fee of 270 AED
Applicants must be aged 21 years of age and non-Muslim.
The alcohol licence application can be completed at any African + Eastern or MMI store. Application forms can also be filled in online. These are the only stores in Dubai licensed to sell beer, wine, and spirits.
It takes 2 to 3 weeks for a liquor licence application to be processed. They are sent to the Dubai Police for approval.
The Dubai Police may reject certain applications. Common reasons include:
- Non-Muslim status not verified
- Applicant has a criminal record
- Ongoing court cases involving applicant
Licences are valid for one year, and then need to be renewed.
Both MMI and African + Eastern offer rewards (discount vouchers etc.) to entice residents to complete the application at their stores.
Requirements and Procedures for Tourists and Visitors
Until summer 2019, tourists and visitors could not apply for an alcohol licence. They could not legally purchase alcohol from liquor shops in Dubai.
The situation has now changed and tourists can apply for an temporary alcohol permit. Applicants need to be non-Muslim and at least 21. The measure was introduced to help visitors stay on the right side of the law.
The permit is free and is valid for 30 days. The application can be made at any MMI or African + Eastern shop. Tourists need to bring their passport (not a copy) and complete a simple form and a declaration that they understand the rules in Dubai regarding alcohol purchase and consumption.
Tourists are issued with an alcohol guide/code of conduct. It states:
- No drinking and driving
- Alcohol must be concealed in public places (carry in a non-transparent bag)
- No consumption in public places
- No intoxication in public places
- Carry the alcohol permit at all times
The licence is issued straight away. Tourists can shop immediately.
The liquor licence can be extended after 30 days.
Abu Dhabi and the other emirates of the UAE have similar rules. The exception is Sharjah, where buying, selling and drinking alcohol is illegal.