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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For the first time, Qatar residents will be charged an annual fee to access the country’s only alcohol and pork store.

Currently, a one-time QR1,000 refundable deposit must be put down to get a permit to shop at the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) in Abu Hamour.

But starting Thursday, Dec. 1, this will be replaced with a non-refundable license fee, QDC has announced.

Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) warehouse

QDC/Facebook

Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) warehouse

However, the same rules for applying for a liquor license remain in place.

This includes having an RP and earning a basic salary of at least QR4,000 a month, as outlined in a letter from a resident’s employer.

New charges

The length of the license issued and its cost will be linked to the validity of a person’s Residency Permit (RP).

So, a resident with an RP valid for two years can buy a liquor license that’s good for up to two years, QDC said in a Facebook post outlining the new system.

The new charges start at QR150 for one year. The cost for two years is QR250, three years is QR350 and four years is QR400.

The fee must be paid by debit or credit card, not in cash.

Wine on sale at the Qatar Distribution Company

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

Wine on sale at the Qatar Distribution Company

For existing customers whose license expires next month, they will be able to renew their card and claim a cash refund on their deposit from Dec. 1, the store said.

Others have from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 to get their refund in cash and pay for the new permit.

Customers who haven’t applied for the refund by March 1 will be given the money as store credit.

Residents who have proof that they have canceled their RP will still be eligible for a cash refund at the store’s discretion, it added.

Under the new system, there will be no charge for additional cards under the same account, such as for spouses.

Previously, QDC did charge a fee for this.

Existing customers will not be able to claim back their deposit or pay for the new permit before Thursday, a store representative said.

Motivations

Some residents have welcomed QDC’s new system, saying it was fairer to those with lower salaries.

However, others said the fee exploited QDC’s monopoly for selling alcohol and pork for non-Muslims in Qatar.

Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport

QDC did not comment on the reason for the new fee, but it is owned by the Qatar Airways Group.

Alcohol and other Qatar Duty Free sales accounted for some QR1.9 billion in revenue for the group in 2015-16, up from QR1.6 billion in 2014-15.

Friday opening

Other changes are afoot at the warehouse. For example, the store recently extended its opening hours to include Friday afternoons.

And it also introduced a “double quota” that allows residents to buy more alcohol between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 this year.

Previously, this option was only available in the run-up to Ramadan, when the store closes for a month.

Qatar National Day Parade 2015

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Qatar National Day Parade 2015

But this year, QDC will be shut for at least two days in December.

Firstly, for the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, which this year falls on Dec. 12; and secondly, for Qatar National Day on Dec. 18.

Starting last year, it also started closing for the two weeks leading up to Eid Al-Adha.

Long lines usually snake around the block ahead of its closures as residents race to stock up on their provisions.

Thoughts?

For illustrative purposes only

Keoni Cabral/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

Qatar’s sole liquor store Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) will for the first time be closed for nearly two weeks in the run-up to and during Eid Al-Adha next month.

The outlet in Abu Hamour, which allows residents who have a permit to buy alcohol for home consumption, is likely to be shut for 13 days, with its last day of trading expected to be on Sept. 12.

It will reopen around Sept. 26, depending on the official date of Eid, a representative said.

The move comes after hotels in Qatar have also been instructed by the government to cease selling alcohol in the nine days prior to Eid and on the first day of the celebration itself.

QDC

Sebastian Wilke/Flickr

QDC

While the dates for Eid have not yet been formally fixed and are dependent on the sighting of a new moon, Eid Al-Adha is expected to start around Sept. 23.

QDC refused to officially comment on the closure or confirm the dates when Doha News called, saying: “It’s a sensitive subject.”

However, customers with liquor licenses were told about it when inquiring over the phone, and a notice outlining the closure dates is expected to be posted on the doors of the store “soon,” a store official said.

Hotel closures

Previously, QDC remains closed during the first days of Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, and other public holidays such as Qatar National Day (Dec. 18). It also does not open at all during the month of Ramadan.

Long lines snake around the store for days ahead of the start of the holy month, as customers stock up ahead of its closure.

QDC

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

QDC

Earlier this year, the Qatar Tourism Authority contacted all hotels in the country, telling them they would not be allowed to sell alcohol for the first 10 days of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, when Muslims perform the Hajj.

At the time, a representative of one five-star Doha hotel said that during the week or so leading up to Eid Al Adha, restaurants and bars would not be allowed to serve or sell alcohol, and minibars in guest rooms would not be permitted to stock it.

However, it is understood that guests would be able to order alcohol through room service, as long as it was consumed in private in their rooms.

Even for observant Muslims who are not performing Hajj, the first 10 days of this month are believed to blessed days to undertake good deeds.

Thoughts?

christmas cupcake

Sam Agnew/Flickr

As the end of 2013 nears, Qatar’s rumor mill has been in full force, particularly over the fate of Christmas celebrations and the continued existence of the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC), the only outlet in the country where residents with permits can buy liquor for home consumption.

But it doesn’t look like either of these things are in any danger, according to the people who have spoken with Doha News.

Christmas in hotels

Earlier this month, a rumor began to circulate that all hotels here were canceling their Christmas celebrations, after the Ritz-Carlton Doha decided not to hold its scheduled festive events, including a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and Christmas market.advert

When contacted by Doha News, the hotel’s public relations representative said that the hotel had made the decision after receiving a directive from the Qatar Tourism Authority about National Day celebrations. As a result, it said it was focusing entirely on the tomorrow’s holiday.

A member of staff at the hotel told Doha News today that there are no plans to erect a Christmas tree after National Day at the Ritz. However, some Christmas-related events, such as gingerbread house decorating, have gone ahead in the hotel in the past week.

The Ritz-Carlton group’s other Doha hotel, the Sharq Village and Spa, followed the Ritz-Carlton’s lead, and also canceled its Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

However, many other five-star hotels have kept their plans. The St Regis, for example, unveiled a 6-meter tall tree earlier this month, complete with a life-size gingerbread house, choir and posting box for letters to Santa Claus. The Four Seasons, Kempinski Hotel and Grand Hyatt also followed suit with tree lighting ceremonies.

School celebrations

A few incidents in private schools have also spurred rumors of a crackdown on Christmas at schools.

According to one parent, following a complaint, Compass School in Al Rayyan was asked a few weeks ago by the Supreme Education Council to remove its “giving tree” – a decorated tree underneath which children had been asked to leave gifts for laborers.

When Doha News contacted the school this morning, Head of Campus Patricia Taylor declined to comment about the matter.

On a related note, an employee at Newton Lagoon School told Doha News this morning that the school had decided to change its plans to mark National Day with an “International Day.” Instead of asking students to come to school in their own national dress, kids have been told to come in their normal clothes or Qatari national dress.

“International Day” will likely be celebrated next term, the staffer said, adding that the five local Newton schools typically hold such celebrations at different times of the year from each other. Management made the decision about the Lagoon campus’ event so as to not detract from National Day, she said.

However, other similar events planned in Qatar’s private schools have gone ahead with no problems this week, and some schools have displayed Christmas trees and held holiday concerts without incident.

Latte lament

latte

Ambernectar13/Flickr

Many major supermarkets in Doha have put up large displays of Christmas decorations, food and chocolate this season. However, Doha’s coffee lovers discovered yesterday that Starbucks had stopped selling its seasonal favorite, the Gingerbread Latte. One customer was told that this was “due to National Day.”

But the issue actually seems to be about a lack of stock, rather than an effort to remove holiday-related merchandise.

According to an employee at Starbucks in City Center Mall, the chain had run out of its special gingerbread mix in Qatar, but an order had been put in for more. The employee told Doha News that he did not know when the shipment would arrive.

Fate of QDC

Over the past few months, persistent rumors have circulated about QDC, asserting that it was going to be made to close for good after National Day, which would restrict the sale of alcohol in Qatar only to hotels and clubs.

But speaking to Doha News, an employee there said the warehouse would only be closed for National Day, and would reopen immediately after the holiday. She also said that rumors about a permanent closure “are not true.”

Rumors about the fate of QDC have been circulating for years. It seems likely the latest round of questions was sparked by the nationalization of Qatar Airways, which became an entirely government-owned company this summer.

The national carrier owns QDC, and in the past few weeks, there have been sporadic outbursts on Twitter from some Qataris who have decried the business for selling alcohol and pork, both of which Muslims are prohibited from consuming.

Thoughts?