Changes To UAE Laws Relating To Alcohol Consumption


In a ground-breaking move aimed to intensify social and cultural dynamics, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently introduced a series of progressive amendments to its laws concerning alcohol consumption. The updates, which reflect a more inclusive and liberal approach, are set to reshape the social landscape of the UAE and cater to the diverse needs of residents and visitors alike. This nation is known for its unique cultural and religious values, including strict regulations regarding the consumption of alcohol. For many years, the UAE implemented stringent regulations on alcohol consumption due to its adherence to Islamic principles and local cultural values. These regulations included strict licensing requirements, limitations on sales, and restrictions on public consumption. However, recognising the evolving needs of its diverse population and the growing tourism industry, the UAE government has initiated several reforms to its alcohol laws. This article delves into the notable changes made to the UAE’s alcohol laws, highlighting their implications and potential impact on society.


Notable Changes Made to The UAE’S Alcohol Laws:

In the UAE, a significant turning point is the decriminalization of drinking alcohol at the federal level. Another revised change to UAE laws regarding alcohol consumption has been the expansion of access to alcohol. Previously, alcohol was primarily available in designated areas such as hotels and licensed venues. However, the UAE has introduced new regulations that allow for the establishment of licensed bars and lounges outside of hotels, thereby increasing the availability of alcohol to residents and tourists. Article (313) Bis of Federal Criminal Code no. 3 of 1987 underwent a significant change in the year 2020 through Law No. 15 of 2020.  Considering this, consumption of alcohol in the UAE, is no longer a crime, as long as you do it in a lawful manner and at a lawful place as per the law. The previous version of Article 313(bis) of the Federal Criminal Code No.3 of 1987, which was introduced in the year of 2006 is as follows,

Article 313 (bis):

  1. The Penalty (Hudd Punishment) for drinking alcohol shall not apply to non-Muslims.
  2. Without prejudice to the conditions allowed, detention for a period of not less than six months and a minimum fine of ten thousand dirhams, or either of these two penalties, shall be imposed on whoever drinks alcohol, or possesses, acquires, imports, exports or manufactures alcoholic beverages for personal use or offer to third parties.
  3. Without prejudice to the conditions allowed, detention for a period of not less than two years and a minimum fine of fifty thousand dirhams, or either of these two penalties, shall be imposed on whoever possesses, acquires, brings, manufactures, re-exports, promotes or publicizes alcoholic beverages for trade purposes.   

The revised version of Article 313 (bis) in the year 2020, includes the following provisions: 

  1. No penalty shall be imposed on drinking, possessing or trading in alcoholic drinks in the cases and at places authorized in accordance with the legislation in force.
  2. Without prejudice to the provision of Clause (1) of this Article, each emirate may issue regulations for the use, circulation and possession of alcoholic drinks or trade therein.
  3. Whoever offers or sells alcoholic drinks to any person under 21 years of age or buys the same for the purpose of offering to such person shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine of no less than one hundred dirhams and not more than five hundred thousand dirhams or any of such penalties. Any of such actions shall not be considered a crime if the perpetrator verifies that the age of the person to which the alcoholic drinks is offered or sold is not less than 21 years, based on his passport or any official document.

The new amendments of article 313(bis) underwent a radical change, the law decriminalized the consumption of alcohol. The law also denotes the penalties for individuals who supply or sell alcohol to individuals under the age of 21 or purchase alcohol with the intention of providing it to underage individuals. However, it also states that if the person selling or providing alcohol has verified the age of the recipient as 21 years or older through official identification, they will not be considered guilty of any crime.

As per the law, each emirate within the UAE can choose to pursue their own paths in implementing more liberal policies. Pursuant to this, recently Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, has recently made a significant decision by abandoning its licensing system. This move marks a major shift in the business landscape of the region and demonstrates Abu Dhabi’s commitment to fostering a more open and dynamic economic environment. In a significant move, on 1st January of 2023, the Dubai government made an exhilarating change in alcohol consumption, the vibrant emirate has recently announced the removal of a 30% tax on alcohol purchases for a duration of one year. Dubai, for instance, has taken a pioneering step by introducing legal alcohol home delivery services as well. This move showcases Dubai’s progressive and forward-thinking approach to cater to the evolving needs and expectations of residents and visitors. However, there is an exception to this rule in the emirate of Sharjah. Sharjah enforces a ban on the sale and consumption of liquor within its borders, regardless of an individual’s age. As a result, residents and visitors in Sharjah are prohibited from purchasing alcohol and engaging in related activities within the emirate.

Despite the rapid modernization and economic growth in the UAE, some elements of strict regulation continue to persist in the country. One such example is the prohibition of alcohol purchases for Muslims. In adherence to Islamic law, which is a fundamental aspect of the UAE’s legal system, Muslims are restricted from consuming or buying alcohol. This regulation is based on religious beliefs and aims to uphold the cultural values and traditions of the Muslim population in the UAE. Additionally, the reforms may help reduce instances of illegal alcohol trade, ensuring that consumers have access to regulated and safe products. 


The UAE’s changes to laws regarding alcohol consumption represent a remarkable shift in the Emirate’s approach to a compound and fragile issue. These reforms demonstrate the government’s willingness to adapt to societal changes and accommodate the needs of its diverse population. While the expansion of access to alcohol brings economic benefits and enhances the hospitality industry, it is crucial to implement effective regulations and public awareness campaigns to address potential social and health concerns. By striking a balance between tradition and modernity, the UAE aims to create a harmonious society that respects its cultural values while embracing progress. Visit our website to know more about the latest legal updates.