Bars and entertainment venues in Dubai which flout their licensing laws and allow customers wearing traditional dress to enter face hefty fines or closure, officials have warned.
A Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) director told 7DAYS how the department sends undercover inspectors into establishments where alcohol is served to monitor the clientele.
“You have mystery shoppers, and you can say it’s the same for DTCM monitoring purposes. We use mystery guests to get feedback, they are assessors… to do the classification and check that the criteria is being met and is adhered to,” hotel classification director Majid Sager Al Marri said.
7DAYS reported yesterday how Muslim music fan Manal Rostom was turned away from the DXB Beach Festival at Nasimi Beach, where alcohol was served, as she was wearing a traditional headscarf. Al Marri said he suspected the venue was merely complying with the terms of its licence in refusing entry to Rostom.
DTCM business development director Shaikha Ebrahim Al Mutawa admitted the event had raised questions among staff in the department about whether it was suitable for those in national dress because it involved music and alcohol.
Al Marri said no inspectors were present at the festival on Friday, however he said the department routinely checked establishments and hotels to make sure they were complying with their liquor licence, permits and DTCM guidelines. Plain-clothed staff or “mystery assessors” work day and night shifts, randomly inspecting establishments at Dubai’s 570 hotels, entertainment venues and leisure clubs, Al Marri said.
“We have assessors working from morning and in second shifts at night, wherever is necessary. They will contact the hotel sometimes and visit them, or do mystery guest checks, to check criteria is followed,” he added.
An establishment found to be breaking those rules risks a fine up to Dhs20,000, and permanent or temporary closure.
DTCM was unable to provide figures on the number of venues that had been found to be breaking the rules this year, but Al Marri said the department tried to work with venues in the first instance, giving them time to resolve the issue before any penalty was imposed.
In light of last weekend’s hijab row, he explained the rules around national dress and when it could be worn in entertainment venues.
“If it’s an event about alcohol, or suppose it’s like a dance floor, you cannot allow those in a national dress to be there… it’s about respecting the national culture and country,” Al Marri said.
He added that restrictions on national dress were normally conditions of the liquor licence, issued by police, rather than as a result of a venue’s own dress code.
“It also depends on the venue and their classification. With a restaurant, it’s normal to have a meal there; it’s not just about alcohol, so people can attend in national dress,” Al Marri said.
The hospitality sector has been warned about guidelines relating to national dress.
The rules state: “Access to discos, nightclubs and dance clubs is forbidden to individuals wearing the national dress of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council; Kandura (the white gown worn by Muslim men), Ghutra (traditional head dress) and Eqal (black headgear worn by men).”
The circulars also said the dress code must be clearly visible at the entrance and warns against imposing restrictions relating to race, colour or profession.