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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.]
[this post was last updated on November 28, 2016 as the QDC made an important change, removing the requirement for a deposit and instead instituting an annual fee. They also added a new email address.]
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) IF YOU ARE APPLYING FOR A NEW PERMIT -- 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 do not have to get this letter for renewing 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.
In the past you needed a letter from your employer for a renewal, not anymore. If you are renewing your permit then the documents you need depends on whether any details have changed. The QDC now has a handy guide posted at the permit office, but due to changes from December 2016 ignore the last bit about a security deposit:
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 some a credit or debit card to pay the fee (they now state on their facebook page that payment must be electronic, no cash). Renewals are NO LONGER FREE so if you are renewing you also need to bring payment as well as your Qatar ID, I don't think a passport will do it. QDC does have an email address as well, firstname.lastname@example.org (if that doesn't work try email@example.com), so you might be able to request the form in advance. I found just visiting them not complicated or time-consuming so just going there might be easier. As you'll need to pay a fee you can't complete the licensing process via email so you'll need to visit the QDC anyway.
2a) Fees? Yep, as of December 1, 2016 there is now a fee. In the past you just paid a refundable deposit but now they have moved to charging a fee instead. It is based on the validity of your Residence Permit, and the QDC say they'll pro-rata it if the Residence Permit expires earlier than a year.
1 year permit validity: QAR 150
2 year permit validity: QAR 250
3 year permit validity: QAR 350
4 year permit validity: QAR 450
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 guide on the main map it will be in sector F3, called "QDC". 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 leads 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 if applying for a new permit.
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 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. Three commentators to this post have said it is possible for Muslims to get a liquor license so I think as long as your employer gives you the letter a Muslim can get a permit.
6) When your number is called you go into the permit office where they will take your documents 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. They print it right there while you wait so you don't have to come back another time for it. You can now go downstairs and enter the liquor store.
Aside from the email mentioned above you can also call the QDC at 4429-9777.
PORK: 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.