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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.