The exclusive international beach resort chain Nikki Beach has confirmed that it is pulling out of Qatar.
The brand is famous for its all-white decor and celebrity parties in some of the world’s hippest holiday spots, such as St. Tropez in France, St. Barths in the French West Indes, Marbella in Spain and its home town of Florida’s Miami Beach.
Doha was supposed to be the company’s first venture in the Gulf, and a site on the Pearl-Qatar has long been earmarked for construction.
The website of the island’s managing company UDC still lists the private club as an upcoming attraction, although the 2012 scheduled opening date has long since passed.
This week, a company spokesperson for US-based brand told Doha News that Qatar would no longer be a location for one of its clubs. However, a Nikki Beach in Dubai would be announced “very soon.”
“We did not open and are not opening in Qatar,” she said, adding that the reason behind canceling the Qatar location was a change of ownership of The Pearl.
In 2012, a state-owned retirement fund announced that it had bought a controlling stake in UDC.
At the time, the acquisition of some QR1.6 billion in shares by Qatar’s General Retirement and Social Insurance Authority was thought to have helped stabilize the island.
But questions were also raised about whether the business deal prompted the Pearl’s sudden ban on alcohol sales a few months before that.
Initially touted as temporary, the ban remains in place and may have played a factor in Nikki Beach’s change of heart.
Describing itself as “the world’s sexiest beach bar,” Nikki Beach clubs regularly feature in international newspapers’ gossip columns, hosting parties for celebrities from Paris Hilton to Jay Z as guests sip QR11,000-a-bottle champagne.
Given this description, there may also have been cultural questions about how such a venue would fare in a conservative Muslim society like Qatar’s.
UDC did not respond to Doha News requests for comment about Nikki Beach.
The company is the latest in a number of international names that has pulled out of the Pearl.
Just last week, the only restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef on the island announced it was shutting its doors for good on Nov. 21.
The eponymous Quisine by Guy Savoy, which opened after the alcohol ban came into effect, was the French chef’s first foray into the Middle East.
According to the restaurant’s communications manager, things “just didn’t take off the way we expected.”
The restaurant’s closure will follow in the footsteps of Maze, by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, which closed in March 2012, citing falling revenue due to the ban in alcohol sales.
While a number of other restaurants on the island have also fallen by the wayside in the intervening years, the new Marsa Malaz Kempinski hotel near Qanat Qartier looks set to buck the trend.
Opening on Dec. 1, the Alfardan-owned, 281-room hotel is expected to serve alcohol in some capacity in one of its 11 bars, cafes and restaurants. Its facilities will include a 150m private beach, a cafe and pool bar, outdoor swimming pools, water sports facilities, a tennis court and yacht jetties.