Last month’s surprise ban on alcohol at the Pearl-Qatar may be just the beginning of a region-wide clampdown on sales of the drink, some analysts claim.
All GCC countries limit the availability of alcohol, with Saudi Arabia banning it completely.
But Arab Spring-esque protests may motivate countries to tighten those restrictions further to appease Muslim nationals – despite huge expat demand, said Guy Wilkinson, managing partner at Dubai hospitality consultancy, Viability.
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, last June 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.
The Pearl episode has cost restaurants there a considerable amount of business, and prompted at least one developer to halt expansion plans.
What do you think? Does the Pearl suddenly going dry have farther-reaching implications?