Dubai lawyers and judges are calling for changes to the law concerning tourists and alcohol. Every day of the year hundreds of thousands of tourists drink alcohol, with few aware that they are breaking the law.
Most foreign residents will be well aware that for them to legally consume alcohol they must obtain a licence, but few realise the same law applies to tourists.
Lawyers say the problem is that it is actually impossible for a tourist to obtain a licence. To receive one, applicants must prove they are non-Muslim, aged 21 or older, earning more than Dh3,000 a month and are resident in the UAE.
Therefore, tourists are left in a legal grey area, and while most will leave the country in blissful ignorance that they have broken the law, legal experts warn events can turn sour in a heartbeat for the unlucky few.
Lawyer, Yousif Al Bahar gave a theoretical example of a female tourist who had a few drinks while dining at a restaurant. She accidentally stepped on the abaya of an Arab woman.
The woman screamed at the tourist and refused to accept her apology. As the argument escalated she called the police. When they arrived the dispute was resolved, but the officers smelt alcohol on the tourist and asked for her licence. Unable to produce one, she was taken into custody.
“If this woman tells the authorities that she did not know she needed a licence and promises to obtain one to get out of trouble, she won’t be able to simply because she is not a resident,” Mr Al Bahar said.
“So what will happen to her? She will have to go to court and face a charge of drinking without a licence. This is proof that the law is in need of amending.”
Currently, the licence is only granted to non-Muslim residents. Emirati lawyer Yousef Al Bahar, said the issue should be addressed by granting them a temporary licence when they visit Dubai.
“The problem is that tourists are not allowed to get a licence,” said Al Bahar. “Although they have the right to drink inside hotels and bars, they still get prosecuted for consuming alcohol without a licence if they get into trouble or break another law.”
- Tourists are only allowed to drink alcohol in hotels and bars.
- An alcohol licence is only granted to non-Muslim residents above the age of 21 and earning more than Dhs3,000.
- The penalty for illegal alcohol consumption is either a jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to Dhs2,000.
- Usually judges in Dubai Courts only issue a fine of Dhs2,000 to the person who consumes alcohol without a licence.