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If you thought a beer in Manhattan was expensive…

Wherever you go, there’s always an expectation that dining out and drinking in bars is going to be expensive. In Qatar, the drinking part just became “come again?” expensive. The Gulf nation took travelers by surprise by announcing a new 100% tax on alcohol, just when everyone was feeling the effects at their worst: January 1st. A “sin tax” has been introduced for 2019 and drinking in Qatar has never been less of a thing, even as the World Cup approaches in 2022…

Like many Gulf countries, alcohol laws in Qatar are at best, vague and contradictory. Alcohol is not allowed without a permit, but is allowed on planes and in licensed hotels, clubs and bars. You can’t drink alcohol publicly, and people have been arrested at Gulf airports on this basis, yet its still served. In the case of some airlines like Emirates or Qatar Airways, they’re also some of the world’s largest buyers of fine alcoholic drinks. Emirates has invested over $500 million dollars in alcohol. Qatar has now taken a more hardline approach to the subject, adding a 100% tax to all alcohol, which instantly doubled prices overnight.

According to Sky News, a simple bottle of gin in Qatar now retails for over $100. A hotel beer went from an already extortionate $8 or so dollars to an eye watering $16 per glass. That mint tea might actually be just what the doctor ordered, after all. The move is part of a sweeping new tax regime aimed at targeting “health damaging” goods. There’s no question that alcohol can easily fall under this broad category, but “why now” is a significant question.

Of course, the timing of this is nothing short of fascinating. Qatar, against all odds will host the World Cup in 2022, welcoming the world to the emerging city of Doha. Qatar Airways remains one of the worlds greatest airlines, but by most accounts the host city of Doha remains unprepared and is widely seen as a bulldozer filled theme park in the making, fake ancient souks and all. Will World Cup fans really be expected to fork over $16 a beer, or $20 a gin and tonic? They just might be. The larger question: will they be arrested for drinking outside?

 

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