Already troubled Pearl of Qatar takes yet another blow with alcohol ban

Restaurants and bars on Qatar’s The Pearl development have seen revenues slump by more than 50 percent in the wake of a new ruling banning the sale of alcohol to customers. Outlets on the manmade island off the coast of Doha were told on December 12 they could no longer serve alcohol to guests in what is seen as a display of tension between Qatar’s Muslim culture and its largely expatriate population.

Managers of restaurants located on the popular tourist spot said they had received no explanation for the ban or any indication on whether it might be lifted in the future. “Every restaurant on the Pearl is banned [from selling alcohol]. We were told around mid-December,” said Sumeet Jhingan, country manager for Foodmark, the hospitality arm of retail giant Landmark Group. “We don’t know if it is indefinite, there was nothing in writing or communicated to us as to how long it is going to last.” Foodmark, which counts brands such as Carluccio’s, The Meat Company and Mango Tree in its restaurant portfolio, operates two outlets on Pearl-Qatar. “Obviously the business has dropped; by half… for some restaurants, probably even more,” Jhingan said.

Staff at Maze, the restaurant owned by British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay that opened on the island in 2010, said business has tumbled in the wake of the alcohol ban. “I would say [the decline] is even more than 50 percent,” a spokesperson told Arabian Business. “It is not only Maze… all the restaurants have stopped serving. There are a lot of rumours, we are waiting in great anticipation that [the ban will be lifted].”

United Development Company, the developer behind the Pearl-Qatar, declined to comment when contacted by Arabian Business. But the country’s rapid modernisation has raised fears among the local population that Qatar’s national identity could be diluted by the influx of expatriates and foreign investment. Qatar Airways, Doha’s flag carrier, is currently the subject of a Twitter campaign that calls, in part, for a ban on serving alcohol on its flights in line with Islamic values.

Jhingan said Foodmark has suspended plans to open two restaurants and a club on the Pearl-Qatar, home to an estimated 41,000 residents, until the ban on alcohol is clarified.