A controversial ban on alcohol at Qatar’s manmade Pearl-Qatar development has not impacted negatively on the project as visitor numbers to the area have increased and the developer is in talks to launch more restaurants, retail outlets, a cinema and a supermarket, a senior executive told Arabian Business.
When the ban on the sale of alcohol was introduced in December 2011 some restaurants reported revenues had slumped by up to 50 percent, with others being forced to close within a matter of months.
Despite this, Ehab Kamel, general manager of retail leasing at the Pearl Qatar, argued the development actually registered an increase in visitors over the last year and a half. “The traffic of people increased, it (the alcohol ban) reflects very positively,” Kamel said.
In January, British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay weighed in on the row, which led to the closure of his Maze restaurant in March 2012 after just two years of operation.
“I think the legislation in terms of operating restraints – going out for dinner and not being allowed to have a glass of wine – I think it’s one turn-off for any local,” he was quoted as saying by Doha News.
Earlier this year, real estate firm DTZ Middle East Head of Valuation, Edward Brookes, also told Arabian Business lifting the ban on alcohol on Pearl-Qatar could lead to a resurgence in the number of tourists patronising the development.
Kamel said developer UDC, which last month reported its net profits for the first quarter rose 16 percent year-on-year to QR229m, was in talks to boost the retail and food and beverage options available on the Pearl Qatar.
“We are signing with Ali Bin Ali for luxury watches and jewelry, we are doing the design of the store and discussing to take more brands… We are discussing with Blue Saloon as well,” Kamel said.
A 10-screen cinema complex will open by the end of this year, along with several restaurants including Nandos and Red Lobster and a 4,000sqm Spinneys outlet.
Kamel also claimed rental rates were not being dropped in a bid to attract more tenants: “Our retail rentals are competitive. We are signing good deals and that means that retail rentals are acceptable.”