Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Get or Renew a Liquor Permit



[Note for tourists or visitors: you do not need a liquor permit to have alcohol at a bar, the permit only applies to purchasing alcohol at the one liquor store in Qatar. However, please be aware that you will need to bring your passport or Qatar ID card to the bar to be allowed entry. A drivers’ license or other picture ID is not good enough -- it has to be your passport/Qatar ID.]

So my liquor permit was expiring this month so it was time to renew it. For those of you new to Qatar and looking for a liquor permit, or wondering what to do to renew it, here are the steps:


1) get a letter from your employer addressed to the Qatar Distribution Company confirming your name, ID number, position, basic salary, accommodation entitlement (or whether the company provides accommodation), and marital status. It has to be on original letterhead, signed and stamped by the company. You also have to get this letter every time you renew your permit.

[UPDATE -- two commentators have said you need a salary of at least QAR 4000/month to get a license]

Yes, this means your employer has to give you permission to get a liquor license. No letter, no license. Your HR department should know exactly how the letter should look, if they don't then chances are you work for a company that's not going to give you one. This also means that if you do not have a job you won't be able to apply for your own liquor license. I have a Muslim friend who is married to a Christian woman and because she is under her husband’s sponsorship she could not get her own liquor license.

2) Prepare to visit the Qatar Distribution Company (“QDC”) by gathering your letter, your passport or Qatar ID, a pen to fill out the application, and if this is a new permit application QAR 1000 in cash. Renewals are free so no payment is needed if you are renewing. I've been told that QDC does have an email address as well, Permit@qdc.com.qa, so you might be able to request the form in advance and maybe submit your documents. I didn't find just visiting them too complicated or time-consuming so just going there might be easier.

3) Go to the QDC. This is not an easy place to find and there will not be signs directing you to it. It is in the Abu Hamour neighborhood close to Barwa Commercial Avenue and Safari Hypermarket. If you get a Marhaba map it will be in sector B7, close to the edge of B6. Hours are typically every day except Friday from 9am to 9pm. Note that the QDC is not open during the entire month of Ramadan.



Usually you can’t drive your car into the parking lot unless you show them your permit, either tell them you're here to get a new permit or park outside and walk in.

4) When you enter the building you'll see in front of you an ATM and a set of sliding doors with some security guards in front of it. That's the entrance into the liquor store, you can't go in there without a permit. Turn to your left and go through the doors on the far left, which lead to a staircase. Go up one floor, you'll see a small room with chairs. This is the waiting room. There will be a ticket machine that dispenses a number, and copies of the application form that you have to fill out.

5) The application form asks for name, address, a mobile number, e-mail address etc., as well as marital status and monthly salary. You have to complete this form for both renewals and new permits.

One key thing it asks for is your religion. One of my Muslim friends told me that Muslims are not allowed to get a liquor permit but I've only ever heard it from him. Apparently if you're a Muslim and apply for a liquor permit chances are they will say no. I'm not 100% on this as I've only ever heard it from one person -- if you're Muslim and you have been refused a liquor permit (or got your liquor permit) let me know in the comments section. [UPDATE -- three commenters have said it is possible for Muslims to get a liquor license.]

6) When your number is called you go into the permit office where they will take your application, the letter and your ID card or passport, they will also take a picture of you for the permit. Make sure you're not wearing a hat because when they take your photo it might look something like this:



(Blah, my hair looks terrible!)


And then, if all things are good, they will give you your permit. You can now go downstairs and enter the liquor store.

12 September, 2013 update: the QDC is also the only place that sells pork. You do not need a separate license for this -- as long as you have a liquor license you can enter the store and buy pork as well.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think technically that you just need the letter from your employer with the required information, they do not need to give permission. That said, certain firms with Islamic connections may refuse to provide the letter, so effectively they can deby "permission". The liquor lisence aapplication was the only time I was ever asked my religion in Qatar. My understanding is that if you answer Islam the application will be rejected, but that may come from the same source s your information.

Glen McKay said...

Yes, that's what I meant. The letter does not state that the company gives you permission but no letter, no license, so your employer does have a say if you can acquire a liquor license.

Anonymous said...

But the fact that they don't actually have to give permission makes it somewhat easier for more religious Muslims or Islamic firms to cooperate

Conall Brendon said...

Impressive article..nice work!

liquor store license

Youssef Abi Raad said...

Hi, I remember my friend used to renew his license by scanning the documents stated above and sending them to a certain e-mail in QDC and then just go and collect the renewed license. Got any idea about that?

Secondly, I have many Muslim friends who have the liquor license. For those who say that QDC refused their application, then it must be due to low income reasons OR they are just not willing to let their employer know that they use alcohol (It might a problem for most).

Glen McKay said...

Hi Youssef. Sorry, I don't know anything about scanning and sending the documents in advance. Maybe that was accepted before they set up their new processing offices. As a brief search couldn't find a QDC website I'm not sure that would work anymore.

Thanks for the mention about Muslims, I'll update the post.

Youssef Abi Raad said...

Hi, after renewing the license, i asked the staff about email documents for renewal and they said it still works. You would have to send the documents to "Permit@qdc.com.qa".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your most useful blog. We are considering a move to Doha and have heard a bit about the liquor license but none of the blogs have ever said is how much liquor you get? I know it is based on income so can someone give me an estimate for a family of 4 (only two adults) in which only one is employed and is making approximately 150,000 (USD)? Do they only sell liquor or is beer sold there as well? Finally, I've been told that this store is the only one that sells pork and you need a license for that also. Is that correct? Is it the same license? Approximately what would my family’s allotment be?

Glen McKay said...

Thanks Youssef, I'll update my blog post.

Glen McKay said...

Hi there, thanks for stopping by.

Firstly, yes the liquor store sells beer, wine and spirits. Reasonable selection too, more than I expected it to have for a Muslim country.

Secondly, when I first got my license and saw the limit my first thought was, “Do they think I'm planning to host a wedding reception every month?”. I'm going to guess your limit will be around QAR 4000 a month, maybe even more. Unless you have a taste for real high-end cognacs and champagnes that will be plenty for your alcohol needs.

For comparison one beer will typically be QAR 8-11, and a bottle of standard spirits (such as Johnny Walker Red, Beefeater Gin, Jose Cuervo, Smirnoff) will be around QAR 125 a bottle. In the 7+ years I've been here I've only heard of one Western colleague who once reached his limit, that's because he was hosting what I imagine was a very big party.

Thirdly, the QDC is the only place you can buy pork. The same license is used to access the pork as it is sold in the same store. You don't need a separate license for it. I've never purchased pork from the QDC so not sure if it also goes against your monthly limit or whether you can just buy as much as you want. But given I expect you will have a significant limit, even if the pork goes against that limit I'm sure QAR 4000+ a month should be more than enough for your pork and alcohol needs.

Anonymous said...

Glen,

Thanks for your response. Very informative as are most of your posts. I think you are quite correct that I likely will never hit my limit. In fact, if I do I probably won't be able to work... and there goes the whole middle eastern adventure :) That's not going to happen.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

My friend is Muslim and he has a liquor permit.

Anonymous said...

Hi, does anyone know if QDC is open during Eid Al Adha??
Or does anybody have a contact number to check?

Thanks

Glen McKay said...

I'm not sure if it's open as I'm rarely in Qatar during Eid. Maybe ask them via email: permit@qdc.com.qa

jude shoemaker said...

HI...

What would be the minimum salary limit that is eligible to have a liquor permit?? any idea??

Thank you in advance..

Glen McKay said...

Hi Jude. I don't know for sure but I'm guessing anyone with a salary over QAR 10,000 a month should not have an issue. Under that I'm not sure because I don't know where they draw the line (8,000? 5,000?)

Anonymous said...

Hi...

I just want to clarify this;

1. basic minimum salary and
2. basic minimum package salary (including all allowances).

(e.g: i have a basic salary of 5k and my package is 12k including the housing and transportation allowances.)

which one of the this they will base in order to have a permit?

Glen McKay said...

I spoke to an HR person who does up QDC letters for his company, he said they put in the letter the salary and the housing allowance.

Anonymous said...

Hi...
Minimum basic salary is Qr.4000 and if your basic is Qr.10,000 you will get minimum limit of Qr.2500

Glen McKay said...

Thanks for the update Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

i am muslim. i have HR letter permission and salary also 4000 QR above and i am single possible get license

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to get a permit without a Resident's Permit? Will a letter from my Sponsor confirming that I will be getting an RP suffice?

Glen McKay said...

I going to guess that you'll need your residence permit to get the license. You'll just need to go to the bars for a drink until your RP clears.

Anonymous said...

How much beer/wine/whiskey can you buy at a time? per week? per month? per year?

Glen McKay said...

When you get your license you will receive a monthly limit in riyal of how much you can spend. You can buy up to your limit when you go to the store. So for example if your limit is QAR 2000 then you can use your whole limit in one trip to the store if you want. You can buy any combination of beer/wine/spirits up to your limit.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i dont have a permit and i want to get a permit in mt wife's name. She is on my sponsorship and she is working and drawing a salary more than 10K is it possible for her to get a permit?

Glen McKay said...

Hmmm, that's good question. I don't know the answer but my gut feeling would be no, I think it has to be off of a corporate sponsorship. Otherwise it's an easy loophole for people to get around limits by providing a letter listing a salary of whatever you want. It wouldn't hurt to ask the QDC though, maybe it's allowed. I don't know of anyone who tried.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've called the Permit office to inquire and was told that ladies under their husband sponsorship may apply provided they bring the letter and the ID of her sponsor.

Anonymous said...

Update:

I was able to get my permit! :)
Am under husband sponsorship so it is not an issue whether your are under company or family visa as long as you meet all other requirements.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, your post was very helpful for me getting the license.