Changes to laws related to alcohol consumption in the UAE


published on 7 May 2021 | reading time approx. 2 minutes


Towards the end of 2020, the United Arab Emirates introduced significant legal reforms to alcohol consumption laws. The nation is moving past its Islamic personal laws and is slowly adopting a more progressive approach to such issues.



With an approximate 89 per cent of the population being expatriates, these reforms cater to the majority of the people and has made the UAE a more attractive destination for tourists and foreign investors.

Previously, people needed to hold a license to be allowed to consume, buy, sell or transport alcohol even if above the legal age. Although, in practice, rarely did any bar, restaurant or hotel asks buyers to present their alcohol license. Also prosecutions for alcohol consumption were rare and most often seen when affixed to an arrest for another offence.

Nevertheless, Article 313 of Federal Decree Law No.15 of 2020 removes this requirement and people can enjoy alcoholic beverages in authorized areas without the fear of prosecution. However, alcohol will only be allowed to be consumed privately or in licensed public areas.

Article 313: “There shall be no punishment for consuming, possessing or trading in alcohol drinks in the situations and at places allowed as per applicable legislations.”


It must be noted that only those over 21 are legally permitted to drink and selling to underage persons is still an offence. Driving under the influence in the UAE, like in most countries, is subject to a zero tolerance policy; the blood alcohol limit is 0.00. Also, alcohol prices are higher than average in the UAE so this remains as a barrier for those looking to purchase. Further amendments were made to Federal Law No.3 of 1987 which strictly prohibited Muslims from consuming alcohol. This was changed in the 2020 law.

Although the requirement of an alcohol license has been removed by law in the UAE, it seems yet to take full effect. The two largest liquor retail chains in the country, Maritime and Mercantile International and African & Eastern, both still state on their website that a customer must possess an alcohol license and even outlines the process of getting this.


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