While you are free to drink at a hotel bar in the U.A.E. (provided you aren’t a Muslim), purchasing liquor at a package store is illegal without a liquor license. In theory, if you were caught with alcohol in your car or home without a license, you could be heavily fined or even arrested. However, in reality, the government tends to look the other way in this matter. Booze = money and happy expats…or so the presumption goes.
Running low on our duty-free stock and not wanting to take our chances with the law (I’m far too delicate for prison), we opted to buy a license. Now it was time to go check out the package stores!
We hit up two places. In each, a steady stream of guys entered the window-less store, grabbed one or two bottles of something, had their bounty wrapped in black plastic bags, and slipped out the store as quickly as they came. No licenses were checked, including mine (doh!), and I’m sure most patrons didn’t even have one. In one instance, we saw an Emirati in a tinted SUV park outside the liquor store. A guy ran quickly up to his window and took his order…only to return a few minutes later with black bag in hand. Sketchy with a capital S!
Now in fairness, there are some liquor stores that check for a license at all times. But where is the fun in visiting those places??