Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: LIQUOR LICENCE-THE SEQUEL

Sunday, March 27, 2011


The older ones had much more quality and were built like miniature passports, these new ones look like wedding invitations.

For those of you may not know, adult beverages can be legally purchased in the UAE by non-Muslim residents but only if you possess an annually renewable licence issued by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Abu Dhabi Police, its the law! 

To obtain one, you have to personally submit a passport photo, a copy of both your residence visa and passport, a letter from your employer (replete with numerous colorful ink stamps) stating your employment status and salary, completed forms and 200 Dirhams (~$50) fee. You have to relinquish your old licence, too.

Despite my extreme adversion to anything that even hints of the administrative, I have to admire the tolerance of the Abu Dhabi government to even allow alcohol to be sold/served in their Emirate to us expats and tourists in this Muslim country. It goes against the majority religion but it is a concession to the large dependence on foreign workers in the UAE.

I have lived in Utah and the Deep South, USA where the dominant religion(s) extended me less choices than I have here. There were no permits to be had and entire portions of certain states are "dry".

Anyway, each and every year I have submitted the exact same documents with the exact same information at the exact same office. I have a thick file already at the police station and I have yet to do anything wrong! There is only one office in the Abu Dhabi City metro area for this purpose and fortunately it was very close to my domicile....until today!

I had a coworker drop me off at this particular local police station after work to get this taken care of. I met an officer in the parking lot and told him what I was there for. He said the liquor license operation had moved a couple of days before to another location near downtown. This new bit of information surprised me as I had been to this police station 5 days before but was there after hours and was told to come back later. Nothing was mentioned about the move.

The desk sergeant inside drew me a crude map and I decided to take my chances and grab a taxi to the new digs. The location was apparently in between two landmark buildings and should be easy to find. How wrong I was!

The taxi driver assured me he knew where this place was but threw up his hands in exasperation when we arrived at the general area. I told him to just let me out and I would fend for myself. I asked no less than five different people where this police station was and all gave me a different answer. Remember, there are no street addresses in Abu Dhabi. Hint: when someone points toward a destination, it is usually wrong by at least 45 degrees.

A Good Samaritan finally gave me a ride to another police station in the area. I thought my quest was at an end but they ended up pointing me to another place two blocks over. They didn't do liquor licenses there. I had already been hoofing it for an hour and figured this was my last best chance.

I found myself in one of those small blocks of 4-5 story buildings with retail on the ground floor and flats up top as is typical of Abu Dhabi. The place was a mixture of old and new buildings with ongoing renovation. I asked several pedestrians if they knew of a police station in the area, all I got was blank stares and shrugged shoulders. Then I asked a general laborer that was working in the block. He nodded his head yes and pointed to a renovated building 30 meters away from where we stood. I saw two guys just inside the door with police uniforms on and a very small Abu Dhabi Police logo posted outside.

I walked over and confirmed I was in the right place. I went upstairs and was issued a bright, shiny new liquor licence within minutes. Everyone I dealt with once inside was pleasant and efficient. I was the only one there. Why? Because it takes a Sherlock Holmes to find the place! There are no obvious signs on the building and one almost has to trip over it to find it. I spent over an hour looking for the only office in Abu Dhabi to renew my liquor licence.

I see a problem here. I know the rules and I try to follow them to the best of my ability, but when this is made more difficult than it should be, I reckon others will cut corners and not stay current on their licences. If there is going to be a legal requirement for something, make it easy for folks to comply. I think most would!

This place is really hidden and it took me in excess of an hour on foot and many false starts to find it after a long 12 hour night shift. So since I know where it is now and can save my readers time, aggravation and money, send 50AED and I will part with the GPS coordinates. Ace has to eat too!


Dave said...

An all too familiar tale of life in the Emirates.

Neil Roberts said...

yee haa... legal beer!

Ace said...

Dave: In addition to being hard to find, there is no parking there and the office I did the renewal in was crowded with just 3 people occupying it. Two were employees!

With thousands needing renewal each month, it is chaos waiting to happen.

Seems the whole scheme is being either discouraged or phased out. It has not been made any easier.

Neil: ....and a legal drinker!!!!

Klaus said...

If you really need the 50AED - I am always willing to help a poor soul.

I know that altruism is a foreign word here and you adapted fast.

Your Sherlock instincts are better then mine - I did not find it.

So do you want a check or bank transfer :-) I just need the coordinates.


Ace said...

Truth be told I don't actually have the GPS coordinates as I didn't have the locally sourced POS unit with me that doesn't deal with lat-long anyway.

But I assure you I know where the place is. I will have to go to Google Earth and get a screen shot and I will post it gratis.

Just kidding about the 50AED, I would not keep my fellow imbibers hanging although the thought of gains was tempting. I still retain some self-respect and have not gone completely native!

Klaus said...

Hi Ace: I really couldn't believe its about the 50AED . . .
Sorry for my comment.
But your hints where good enough.
I made it - just 30min too late.
Office hours are 8-12.
After chatting to some guys in foot chains (what I realized later) I found it on the 2nd floor.
My proof: 24°27'29.4" N, 54°23'21.8" E

Jay said...

Klaus, I love you man. You have just saved me a whole new chapter in the long, long liquor licence saga. Any time you need a beer, my door is open....after I get the licence that is.
Ace, you too.

mathew said...

hey guys, could u give me the location with street number or name, thanx

AlexS said...

Address: Intersection between 4th street (Airport Rd) and 15th. When driving out of town along 4th, look for Technical Scissors on your right (Tech Scissors is 150m from the intersection traffic lights). Turn right past Technical Scissors. Take first turn left (the distance is 100m to this turn from Technical Scissors). Travel 200m to the Donner Cafe on your left with Media Center on your right. Park. With Donner Cafe on your left step to the corner of the first block and turn left into a square parking area. Walk straight ahead to a new residential apartment building. When close to the door look right, you will see the GHQ building entrance about 30m away from you in the corner between the two buildings. Second floor.

Ace said...

As a visual supplement,

Glad to be of assistance guys!

Its like an Easter Egg Hunt!!!

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Travel is the frivolous part of serious lives, and the serious part of frivolous ones.

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