|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!