The Fiasco of Frugal February

After what was, by most recent standards, an epic December and January; February has been painfully dull all round here in Dubai.

The festive period was fuelled by the Brits on Tour meets Love Island crowds and the city notched up some impressive numbers - in terms of attendance, sales and the most amount of boob-jobs within a 5-mile radius - all the while most other countries wouldn’t even accept the Brits whatsoever.

The inevitable was coming: the Kent variant or British Covid was also jetting off to warmer climates, crossing borders despite the checks and balances in place on arrival and departures.

Next up, the international press (see the FT / CNBC / the Guardian etc) jumped on the tales of the influencers glamming it up while the UK was on lockdown and – perhaps sensibly – questioned the logic of it all.

The Covid numbers tripled in the space of a month and the UK added the UAE to its red list (based on number of new cases per capita). As many of the Brits started to flock back before the mandatory hotel quarantine kicked in there, the UAE and Dubai announced further restrictions within the F&B sector.

All pubs and bars (or those with those specific licenses) were to close immediately. Tables must have 3 meters distance between them (increased from 2 meters), table sizes must be a maximum of 7 people (down from 10 people), closing times are now 1am and last orders at midnight (as opposed to 3am and 2.45am respectively), and there can be no entertainment (DJs or live music) and also no brunches (a Dubai nightlife staple). On top of this background music could be no louder than 70 decibels and must be without lyrics or beats (read mundane elevator music).

Overnight the fear and frustration rippled through Dubai’s promoter circles as it became apparent Frugal February was upon us all, and the vibes had been killed.

Despite being the shortest month, February dragged on and seemed never-ending. As we broached the month-end people were optimistic things would be reverted to January’s seemingly carefree capacities and rules. Sadly, the number of cases hasn’t reflected the drop in tourists and indeed sales in the F&B industry and now they’ve extended these vibe-choking restrictions until – realistically – the middle of May.

Sure, these restrictions are still more liberal than most of Europe – and for sure we are grateful to still be operational and have the doors open. On top of that, our company – Solutions Leisure – is currently building four new venues and we’ve just added to our portfolio an awesome sunset spoilt beach and pool bar / restaurant on the Palm. And these positives are what we’re trying to keep in mind during the continuing troubles within Dubai’s F&B scene.

I’m probably guilty of abusing alliteration in the title, but the month of February has justified more FFs than any other I’ve experienced here in the Sandpit to be fair.

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