How to get your alcohol license in Dubai
The UAE may be a Muslim country, but Dubai’s large expat population coupled with rising tourist numbers means alcohol is big business.
The Emirates leads the region in alcohol consumption. In 2014, it was estimated that 17.8 million gallons of beer was sold in the UAE, along with five million gallons of spirits. These figures are expected to rise to 24 million gallons and seven million gallons respectively by the end of this year.
While alcohol consumption may be commonplace, as you might expect, its sale is heavily regulated. In order to purchase or drink alcohol, you’ll require a license.
Consuming alcohol without this license can lead to serious consequences – including fines and even arrest. The good news is, with the right support, applying for your Dubai alcohol license can be a fast and straightforward procedure.
Understanding alcohol in the UAE
Alcohol sales in the UAE are heavily regulated. Anyone wishing to purchase, sell or even consume alcohol in Dubai requires a license.
There are also strict rules around the advertisement, storage and transporting of alcohol that can make the situation seem rather complex.
In this article, we are going to look at the requirements for individuals wishing to consume alcohol and the process of applying for a license.
Do I need a Dubai alcohol license?
If you intend to buy or consume alcohol in Dubai, then the short answer is yes. Whether you’re in a bar, a restaurant, your own home or someone else’s, you need a license – it’s the law.
An individual alcohol license permits the holder to consume, transport, possess, and store alcohol. Conducting any of these activities without a license is illegal.
Failure to produce a license when asked is an offence and can lead to heavy fines and possibly revocation of your visa.
You should also keep in mind when consuming alcohol in Dubai, even if correctly licensed, that public drunkenness is also against the law. Punishments for such behaviour can be incredibly severe. As always, when consuming alcohol in this part of the world, discretion and common sense are advised.
How to apply for an alcohol license in Dubai
To apply for an alcohol license, you must be a resident of Dubai, over the age of 21 and non-Muslim.
If you are living in Dubai but have a residency visa from another emirate, you will require an NOC from that emirate. These can be obtained from the Abu Dhabi Special Licence Office or the Sharjah Police Headquarters in those emirates. If you have a visa from Ras Al Khaimah or Fujairah, you must supply a copy of your Dubai Ejari.
Previously, applicants also required an NOC from your current employer, husband or father; a tenancy contract; and proof of earnings over AED 3,000 per month.
However, these requirements have been hugely relaxed in recent years. Now, you are only required to submit:
- A copy of your Emirates ID
- A copy of your UAE visa
- A copy of your passport
- A passport photo
Applications should be made to one of the official alcohol distributors in Dubai – either African + Eastern or MMI.
There are several ways to make your application. Either online, in-person at any African + Eastern store or you can choose to have an application pack sent to your home address. You can also work with a Dubai licensing expert who can manage your application on your behalf.
Your Dubai alcohol license must be renewed every year for a fee of AED 270. While you can submit your documents in advance – the same as those listed above – the license renewal process will not begin until your previous license has expired.
To ensure you are legally covered in the interim, you will be supplied with a temporary license while your new application is processed. License renewals usually take around two weeks.
Alcohol license for tourists
If you are not a resident of Dubai, it is possible to apply for a tourist alcohol license which permits you to legally buy and consume alcohol for 30 days. This can be extended if required.
To apply for a tourist alcohol license, you must visit an MMI or African + Eastern Store with your passport. Here you can complete an application form confirming that you are a tourist and you agree to comply with the UAE’s laws regarding alcohol purchase and consumption.
Once complete, you are free to buy and consume alcohol at any authorised alcohol retailer in Dubai. There is no charge for the tourist alcohol license.
When you receive your license, you will also be presented with the Dubai alcohol code of conduct. This is a set of conditions that you must meet in order for your license to remain valid. Conditions include:
- No consumption in public places
- No drinking and driving
- No public intoxication
- Alcohol must be concealed when in public
Dubai alcohol license cost
The Dubai’s alcohol license costs just AED 270 for residents and usually takes around two to three weeks to arrive.
When you receive your license, both MMI and African and Eastern provide customers with voucher and discount books worth up to AED 1,500.
You can choose to pick it up from a registered distributor or have it delivered to your home address.
There is no fee for the tourist alcohol license.
Drinking alcohol in the UAE
If you’re armed with the right knowledge, applying for an alcohol license in Dubai doesn’t have to be overly complex.
That being said, it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the application process is only straightforward if your license application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.
To help you to ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a licensing expert such as Business Incorporation Zone (BIZ) when making any such application in the UAE.
As well as handling your alcohol license application, BIZ also provide company formation, visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visas applications that are required to trade in the UAE.
In short, our experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to get on with running your business.