BY FAZEENA SALEEM
Doha: More than 20 percent of the annual revenues of hotels in Qatar come from nightclubs and bars, which are now visited by a growing number of Arab and Asian men.
The last few years have seen a steady rise in the number of hotels in Doha, making nightlife in the city more colourful than ever. To lure customers, many of these hotels offer promotions and theme nights, which are often targeted at women by allowing them free entry.
Beach parties at hotels are a booming trend. One hotel, for instance, hosted about 15 beach parties in the first quarter of the year.
“The demand for night events has increased. People want to go out more and they like to have events outdoors, which we can probably do until July,” an official from the hotel said.
Some of the parties are organised by the hotels and others by individuals or groups.
“The number of attendees depends on the location. We can host up to 2,000 people, but some of the smaller parties have only 500 guests,” the official said.
The range of guests is wide, and usually a mix of nationalities.
Several restaurants also feature theme nights and cultural programmes to entertain diners.
Some officials claim that with the opening of new bars and restaurants they are seeing a marked increase in the number of customers and profit.
“The addition of new bars and restaurants in Doha in the last 18 months has mitigated the increase in demand to some extent,” an official of another hotel said, not wanting his name in print.
At one hotel, evening events include a variety of activities and offers, ranging from DJ nights and client receptions to happy hours — when drinks are served at half the normal rates.
“Each of our Doha properties has a variety of visitors from across the globe, namely Qatar, the UK, US, India, France, South Africa, and of course from across the GCC,” the hotel’s spokesperson said.
‘Ladies night’, a concept that was introduced here some eight years ago, is becoming popular among hotels and guests. Almost all the hotels have one day reserved for ladies when they can get free drinks. On normal days, men are allowed to enter the nightclubs using their annual membership card, but on a ‘ladies night’ they have to pay an entrance fee.
“Many years ago, there were only a few places for people to go to in Doha. But as new places opened here we had to look for aggressive promotions,’’ an official of another hotel said, explaining how the ‘ladies night’ was introduced.
This hotel receives as many as 250 women guests on Wednesdays during the ‘ladies night’.
By 11pm, women of different nationalities, including Chinese, Russian and Lebanese, start walking into the hotel.
Some visitors feel the crowds at clubs here are not welcoming or well-mannered. “There are a variety of events, but some don’t know how to enjoy them. Some men can’t handle alcohol and pretty women,” a young professional said.
Some others who go clubbing in Doha feel that the places are “less interesting” and have many restrictions.
“Pubs and clubs here are less interesting in that they have lots of restrictions and guests can’t move freely,” said a professional, adding some places are very particular about what guests can wear.
According to a citizen, the Qatari society is not wholly unaware of what is happening at nightclubs and they do not agree with the concept of nightlife.
“As the country is developing, many expatriates are coming here and we can’t avoid pubs, clubs and discos. It’s fine as long as they are private events at closed places,” said a young Qatari engineer.
But he said he was against the concept of ‘ladies nights’ at hotels here.
“It can be a universal concept, but we cannot accept it in a Muslim society even if our women don’t go there,’’ he added.
A Qatari woman, meanwhile, said she was shocked to hear that women also frequented bars and clubs here. “I thought that some places serve liquor for men only. It’s surprising for me and we are unaware about these discos and pubs,’’ she said.
It can be culture shock for many an Arab man to see a woman having drinks, that too at a bar.
An increasing number of people say they are opposed to hotels having ‘ladies nights’ where drinks are free for women, as that would encourage women to drink.
Another hotel, one of the oldest five-star hotels in the city, said they hosted ‘ladies nights’ to attract more women to the pub.
‘’We offer free drinks to attract and encourage ladies to come,’’ said an official of the hotel.
Some other restaurants said the ‘ladies night’ was introduced to create balance, with an increasing number of men visiting bars.
‘‘It’s to encourage more women to come,’’ said the assistant director of food and beverages of a hotel. It has a special hospitality night and retail night geared towards specific industries.
On a hospitality night, people working in a particular industry, for example the cabin crew of different airlines, are offered a 25 percent discount on food and beverages.
The hotels have to follow regulations set by the government and Qatar Tourism Authority.
One such regulation says Qatari men and women in traditional attire cannot be allowed entry. The men, aged 21 and above, are also required to wear formal clothes. In some cases, residence permits are scanned by security personnel at the entrances of pubs and nightclubs.
However, some teenagers try to sneak into these pubs and clubs.
‘’We have many young boys trying to sneak in, especially when there are weddings at the hotel and during holidays. Guests come with families for holidays from other countries, and the parents would have gone out and the young children are alone at the hotel and they try to enter,’’ said Messaoudi.
He also said that the number of guests had increased during the past year.
“Earlier we would see only one or two people in the bar, but now I see them in more numbers in the form of groups,’’ Messaoudi added.
“Since entrance was made free, we receive many guests. The majority of them are men but we also get Chinese and Russian female guests,’’ said an employee at another hotel.
Some people also complain that drinks are too expensive here and the places too small. “Drinks are too expensive here. It can cost between QR40 and QR300, and at many hotels the pubs and bars are too small and the place gets overcrowded,’’ said a young professional who was studying and working in the UK before coming to Doha.