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.