Dubai: The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) has dismissed claims that restaurants and cafes in Dubai are no longer required to obtain a special permit to operate during the day throughout Ramadan.

Just as Ramadan started last Monday, word began to spread that the DED has waived the permit for food and beverage outlets to serve customers or deliver meals during fasting hours.

Some cafes even posted on their premises a government-issued letter that states: “Ramadan dine in and delivery permits are no longer required this year. Restaurants may serve meals inside or deliver food without applying for the permit in DED.”

The information elicited positive reaction in the food and beverage industry, with some people saying the move will benefit local businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

However, when contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the government agency denied that the Ramadan permit for restaurants has been scrapped.

“There is no waiver announced on permits mandatory for restaurants and other outlets for serving food during fasting time in Ramadan this year,” the DED said on Wednesday.

“Restaurants are permitted to serve food during fasting hours subject to certain guidelines, including that food should be served inside the restaurant after fully covering their windows, doors and glass walls.”

The DED also called on all food outlets and the public "to respect the spirit of Ramadan and remain in solidarity" with those who have chosen to abstain from eating from dawn to sunset.

Food consumption, smoking, drinking

Traditionally, public daytime eating, as well as drinking and smoking, during Ramadan is prohibited in the UAE, so most dining venues close business during daylight hours.

Businesses have always been given the prerogative to operate during the day, provided they obtain a special licence first and they serve meals within enclosures.

But the confusion started when some outlets were led to believe that, for the first time, they now have the option to open at daytime without necessarily applying for a special permit or paying a fee, provided they cover their windows, doors and glass walls.

Permit or no permit? How the confusion started

Rajiv Meherish, co-founder of Raju Omlet in Al Quoz, said earlier this week he was informed that the special permits for restaurants to operate during daytime has indeed been waived.

“When we want to do deliveries, we had to go to the DED to seek permission. This time when we went, they said you don’t need permission; you can actually keep the restaurant open. We were surprised,” he said.

“We asked, ‘Can people come and dine in?’ ‘Yes, the only thing is they should not be exposed to the public in the sense that when you’re eating inside, people from the outside should not be able to see them.’”

Meherish said this was the first time he heard about Dubai waiving off permits to operate during Ramadan in his 39 years in the country and in his six years in the restaurant business.

Meherish also received a letter from the DED branch in Al Manara, confirming these details.

A café in Souk Al Bahar and another on Shaikh Zayed Road also posted at the restaurant a note from DED that states:

“Ramadan dine in and delivery permits are no longer required this year. Restaurants may serve meals inside or deliver food without applying for the permit in DED."

When contacted by Gulf News by email on Tuesday, the customer care department confirmed the same information:

“If you have already a restaurant license from Dubai DED, you can open your restaurant during Ramadan day time without needing to apply for permit.”

The next day, however, the DED sent this official statement to Gulf News: "There is no waiver announced on permits mandatory for restaurants and other outlets for serving food during fasting time in Ramadan this year."

Some analysts who reacted to the initial information said the move could benefit the local businesses in Dubai, particularly the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

James George, senior analyst at Euromonitor International, said that by scrapping the special Ramadan permit, Dubai could reduce the cost of doing business and boost private sector credit.

However, whether or not the permit is no longer necessary, some food and beverage outlets in Dubai remain close to adhere to the fasting hours.

At Burjuman, for example, only 14 restaurants are serving meals while 20 are catering only to takeaway requests.

At Mall of the Emirates (MOE), at least 22 outlets are serving meals during the day, although some of them open their doors much later. The mall’s food court also serve food from 12 noon. Some dining venues are serving food only from Iftar time until 2am.

In Dubai Mall, which is most freqeunted by tourists, the picture looks different. A lot of food outlets that used to close during the day for Ramadan are now serving meals behind dark curtains.

Restaurants and cafes open in the malls during Ramadan fasting hours:

Mall of the Emirates

Open for dining:

Food courts (10 am till 12 pm: only takeaway ; 12 pm till 2 am: dine in and takeaway)

Arabica

Starbucks ground & 2nd floor

Texas De Brazil

Din Tai Fung

800 degrees

More Café

California Pizza

Chili’s

Café Bateel

Shake shack

St. Tropez

Après

Paul Café

PF Changs

Dean & Deluca

Karam Beirut (closed between 5 pm and 7 pm )

Le Pain Quotidien

Salmontini

The Butcher Shop & Grill (from Iftar time till 12 am for dine in and takeaway from 11 am till 11 pm)

The Cheesecake Factory

Yo Sushi

Costa Café

Burjuman

Open for dining:

Shakespeare & Co

Nando’s

Main Land China

The Yellow Chill

Pancake House

Filli Café

Dome Café

Starbucks

Jollibee

Tangerine

Costa Coffee

The Noodle House

JYSK Café

Open for takeaway:

Burger King

Bombay Chowpatty

Tapa King

KFC

Spices Garden Café

Pizza Hut

Chicken Tikka

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Coffee

Marrybrown

Shamiana

Papa Johns

Chinese Palace Restaurant

Koryo

Umami Restaurant

Cole Stone

Baskin Robbins

McDonalds

Texas Chicken

California Pizza Kitchen

Charleys Philly Steaks