Browsing 'alcohol' News

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s only alcohol store is urging customers to take advantage of lower prices while they can, before a new “selective” tax takes effect across the country.

The government is planning to implement a new “sin tax” on goods that are “harmful to human health and the environment,” as well as specific luxury items, officials previously said.

This includes fast food, soda, tobacco and alcohol.

Sebastian Wilke/Flickr

QDC

This week, employees at the Qatar Distribution Co. (QDC) in Abu Hamour have been warning customers that import taxes on spirits are set to double soon.

This will likely increase the cost of alcohol for customers, though it remains unclear by how much.

Many people have been expressing concerns about the impending tax, as prices at QDC for alcohol are already fairly steep.

Increased quotas

Only residents with alcohol licenses are allowed to shop at QDC, which is also the sole distributor of pork products in Qatar.

Each customer has a monthly allowance that is calculated as a percentage of their incomes.

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This week, QDC said in an unusual move that residents will be able to purchase three times their normal quota from April 1.

The alcohol quota usually only goes up before Ramadan, when QDC closes for the month. It also was doubled at the end of 2016 when the warehouse closed during the run-up to Eid Al Adha.

This year, the fasting month doesn’t begin until the end of May.

Meanwhile, hotels are also likely to be affected by increased taxes on alcohol.

However, none of the ones contacted by Doha News have responded to requests for comment yet.

New taxes

Qatar’s Cabinet approved a draft law governing new “selective” taxes last month.

Officials did not say when the law would be implemented.

Dave Dugdale / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But the taxes are in accordance with a unified GCC agreement. And a Saudi finance minister previously said this could be introduced across the Gulf as early as April.

The GCC is also on track to introduce a separate, value-added tax in 2018.

That consumption tax will most likely affect businesses. It is expected to exempt certain food items, as well as the cost of education, healthcare and social services.

Thoughts?

Brian Candy

Bryan Adams concert

Dozens of concert-goers in Qatar are complaining about discrimination after being turned away from a Bryan Adams concert last night.

Several women wearing headscarves, along with their spouses, friends and relatives, said security barred them at the entrance to the Grand Hyatt Doha’s beachside venue before the show started.

Alcohol was being sold at the sold-out concert, and usually in Qatar, women wearing headscarves or national dress are not permitted into bars that serve spirits.

However, many people said they were surprised to learn of the restriction, as it had not been mentioned when they bought their concert tickets.

Other attendees said they were confused because several hijabis were allowed into the venue, suggesting the policy was unevenly enforced.

See more reaction here.

‘Humiliated’

Speaking to Doha News, Iram Kassis, a 44-year-old Tunisian expat, said a guard asked her and her sister to get out of the line for the concert because her sister wore a headscarf.

1 minute to show time #Doha #bryanadamsgetup

A post shared by Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) on

“We have been shocked by that and asked to meet with a responsible person to clarify this issue, especially (since) it was not mentioned in the terms and conditions of the website (when we) purchased the tickets.”

She added that she noticed several other families waiting around after having the same issue.

“We have been humiliated and there was no respect from the hotel people. I am not against the law in the country if it is forbidden to attend such an event, but the issue is with the organizing people and their disrespect of human beings.”

The Grand Hyatt declined to comment to Doha News about whether its venue has a no-headscarf policy. It referred questions to concert organizers instead.

Refunds

Another concert-goer said she was turned away because of her scarf, and her friend was also asked to leave “by association.”

“I was condescendingly told at the gate, ‘take off your veil/scarf, or go back,” said the American expat, who asked not to be named.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

She added that at one point, 40-50 people women stood with “husbands, brothers, coworkers and longtime friends” outside the venue.

After about three hours, as event organizers and security locked arms to keep them out, and a group of people shouting “let us in,” their tickets were refunded, she said, adding:

“I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Meanwhile, Kassis said didn’t want a refund.

“It’s about transparency” and letting people know they are not welcome beforehand, she said.

She added that she has filed a complaint to the Qatar Tourism Authority, which oversees the country’s hospitality sector.

Past incidents

Organizers Alive Entertainment have not responded to a request for comment.

But this is not the first time women have been barred from entering places in Qatar because of their attire.

Victoria Scott

Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha

For example, Qatari women previously expressed anger at not being allowed to enjoy performances at the now-defunct Jazz at Lincoln Center at the St. Regis Doha.

This was because, as per Qatari law, people in national dress are not allowed in venues that serve alcohol.

And in 2013, locals called for a boycott of comedian Russell Peters’ show after organizers said people in national dress would not be permitted entry.

They later backtracked on the prohibition, calling it a “misprint” on the ticket.

In any case, many have criticized such policies as discrimination.

Speaking to Doha News, the American expat banned from last night’s concert said:

“We were told by Qatari police that it’s Qatar law that veiled women are not allowed in places/venues that serve alcohol.

This limits the rights of a Muslim women but not the Muslim man. The choice to wear a veil should not hinder someone from entrance.”

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

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.

Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) warehouse

QDC/Facebook

Qatar Distribution Company (QDC) warehouse

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.

New charges

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.

Wine on sale at the Qatar Distribution Company

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

Wine on sale at the Qatar Distribution Company

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.

Motivations

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.

Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Duty Free at Hamad International Airport

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.

Friday opening

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.

Qatar National Day Parade 2015

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Qatar National Day Parade 2015

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.

Thoughts?