How to get the new Dubai alcohol license

By Sveccha Kumar September, 09 2020

Looking to get an alcohol license in Dubai? Read on!

If, like us, you enjoy the good stuff – *wink, wink*-  and you’ve been in Dubai for a while, you’ve probably jumped with joy every year when a not-so-inconspicuous envelope landed on your desk reminding you to renew your alcohol license and signalling the start of a paperwork marathon. 

Thankfully, over the past 2 years, Dubai has simplified the process to apply for and renew your alcohol license. In 2019, the requirements were revised so you only had to submit copies of your passport, visa and Emirates ID, along with a passport-sized photograph and the fee of AED 270. These new straightforward asks meant that one could finally stop skulking around your HR representatives, whose stamp and signature was previously required as an NOC.

Cut to 2020, and COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill making people ‘stay home’ for extended periods of time. For some of us, 5 o’clock may have come earlier on some days, but we’re not one to judge! 

If there is one thing that we welcomed with open arms and whoops of joy during this crazy time, it was the Dubai governments’ decision to make the application and renewal of an alcohol license even easier. Under the new rules for 2020, all you need is your Emirates ID to apply for a new license or renew an expired one. You can even set your own alcohol purchase limits, though these are subject to approval by the CID.

The new process to apply for your alcohol license is as simple as 1,2,3 – literally. 

  1. Grab your Emirates ID, 
  2. Get in the car, and drive to your nearest MMI or African and Eastern store,
  3. Apply. 

As of September 2020, the old ‘red cards’ have also now been replaced with new ‘black cards’.  We’re not entirely sure of the reason behind this change, but we’re happy to be bid adieu to the red cards and the associated red tape! Unlike most things in Dubai where any change warrants a price increase, the alcohol license fee remains at AED 270, as before.

If you still have the old card, you can apply to change it over to the new one by taking your Emirates ID to MMI or African & Eastern. The best part – paying AED 25 will get you a shiny new black card that will tide you through the next few months till your renewal.  At both MMI and African and Eastern, you also get the money back as a voucher to spend in store.

Or, you can choose to renew your license now with the new one being valid for 12 months + all the time left on your current license. Oh, and did we mention that you also get Dirhams back in rewards and discounts? 

We know where we’re putting our money! 😉


If you’re a newbie, here are some of the general rules that you should know about drinking alcohol in the Emirate. Dubai veterans, feel free to refresh your memory too!

I have an alcohol license, can I drink outside or in the park?

That would be a resounding no. Dubai law makes it illegal to drink alcohol in public, and believe me, they take it seriously.

Do I need to have my alcohol license with me at all times?

The law states that you must have an alcohol license to be able to consume it, no matter where you are. Basically, whether you’re at a bar or at a friends’ house – take your alcohol license with you. Carrying a license is a minor inconvenience (shrinking wallet and purse sizes, anyone?) when compared to the punishment if you’re caught tipsy without one.

What’s the punishment if I’m caught drinking alcohol without a license?

Severe, to say the least. Punishments can include six months in the clink, an AED 5,000 fine and deportation – and possibly all of them.

Ok, I now have an alcohol license. Where can I buy alcohol in Dubai?

You’ll find well-stocked branches of African + Eastern and MMI all across the city. You can read this article for more advice on where to buy alcohol in Dubai and the UAE. 

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