An abrupt change to regulations governing the sale of alcohol in Qatar’s hotels last night prompted staff to cancel events at the last minute, causing upset among some Doha residents.
According to a media representative from one five-star hotel, hotel managers received written notice from authorities yesterday evening informing them that alcohol could no longer be served around their swimming pools or on their beaches.
Previously, luxury hotels in Qatar were allowed to serve alcohol in all of their bars, cafes and restaurants.
It is unclear, however, whether the notice is indicative of a new rule, or simply renewed enforcement of an existing one. A spokesperson for one popular hotel told Doha News that the regulation is not new.
Because it’s the weekend, hard facts and official comment on the change has been hard to come by. But since last night, it’s become apparent that:
- Doha’s five-star hotels no longer appear to be allowed to serve alcohol at their pool and beach bars, St. Regis, the Intercontinental, W Doha, the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons have told Doha News;
- Restaurants with outside terraces, like Hakkasan at the St. Regis, appear to be unaffected;
- The Four Seasons, St. Regis and the Ritz Carlton canceled their beach parties last night, as a direct result of the new rules, though the Marriott did not; and
- The W Hotel confirms that Wahm is still selling alcohol, but its pool bar, WET, is not.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Intercontinental was unable to confirm whether the new regulations would affect its beach events.
The reason for the change remains unclear, though the issue of safety has been raised by some event organizers, who say water and alcohol-fueled brains don’t mix.
The Ministry of Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reaction to the ban has been swift on Twitter – and somewhat divided:
— Amy Bambridge (@escapetoqatar) November 7, 2013
— Brydon (@Brydon_N) November 7, 2013
— Time4WineDoha (@Time4WineDoha) November 7, 2013
— Darren Wiseman (@WisemanDarren) November 7, 2013
For some, the latest change to alcohol sale regulations has been reminiscent of the ban on alcohol sales on the Pearl-Qatar, which was introduced with no warning in December 2011.
A number of high-end restaurants and bars on the luxury island have reported steep drops in revenue after they were suddenly banned from selling alcohol, with some closing months after the new rule took effect.