Dubai again has loosened laws governing alcohol sales and possession of liquor as it tries to claw its way out of an economic depression worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. An already hurt economy was exacerbated with mass layoffs thin the ranks of its foreign workforce and empty homes even amid slight signs of recovery.
Alcohol sales have long served as a major barometer of the economy of Dubai, a top travel destination in the UAE. The sales also serve as a major tax revenue source for Dubai's Al Maktoum ruling family.
In Dubai, alcohol sales, in general, reflect the confidence of buyers in their own finances and in turn, the economy.
It had already shown signs of decline in demand in the pre-pandemic period amid falling global energy prices and a weakening real estate market in Dubai.
Overall sales of alcohol by volume fell sharply in 2019 to 128.79 million litres (34 million gallons), down some 3.5 percent from 133.42 million litres (35.2 million gallons) sold the year before, and 7 percent lower than 141.51 million litres (37.3 million gallons) in 2017, according to statistics from Euromonitor.
Dubai's two major alcohol distributors have begun legal home deliveries of alcohol for the first time to boost sales. The city-state has also changed the system of granting permission to residents to legally purchase alcohol.
By law, non-Muslim residents are supposed to carry red plastic cards issued by the Dubai police that permit them to purchase, transport and consume beer, wine and liquor. Those red cards now have been replaced with a black card and a simplified application process only requiring an Emirati national ID card, a report by the Associated Press said. An application no longer requires an employer's permission.
Purchase restrictions based on salaries also have been eased, the report said.
The new card system comes as Dubai also now allows tourists and visitors to buy alcohol from distributors simply by using their passports, closing a loophole that made visiting imbibers unable to get a permit subject to arrest for possessing alcohol.
The UAE, as a whole, is still struggling with COVID-19 (around 64,000 confirmed cases and 360 deaths) but Dubai has been aggressively advertising itself as re-opened to tourism and is even set to host Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament in September.