The Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai issues trade licenses for more than 2,300 types of commercial activities. The recent roll-out of economic reforms and constitutional amendments reflect the government’s bid to facilitate ease of business in the city. However, quite a few economic activities require additional approval for business from authorities concerned.
This column will explore the requirements for obtaining special approval for business activities and the authorities involved. Moreover, we will also learn which civic bodies are involved in granting additional approval for business.
Seven common economic activities for which you need to obtain special permits
1. Restaurants / cafeterias / coffee shops
A home to about nine million expats from across the globe, the UAE has huge demands for global cuisines. Therefore, those in the culinary business are bound to thrive. Due to the rise in cloud kitchens, the license can be issued within a day. However, the relevant authorities have to undertake inspections to ensure you have met their standards and thus issue no-objection certificate (NOC), before you begin operations.
For restaurants / cafeterias / coffee shops, there are two categories of additional approval for business:
- The area should more than 200 sqft
- Sufficient space for cooking equipment
- Waste disposal provision
- Smoke management system
- Storage areas
- Non-absorbent, washable, and fireproof walls, floors, and roof
- No pests
- Separate wash basins for vegetables, meat, and utensils
- Blueprint of the restaurant/cafeteria, including floorplan specifying where the food will be stored and processed; where the windows, entry and exit are located
- Consignment release license
- Permit for vehicles that will be used for transporting food products
- Additional permits for handling and serving non-halal items such as pork or alcohol
- Dubai Municipality (DM) – Food safety and public safety departments
- Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) – This special approval for business is required if your restaurant or cafe is in a hotel
2. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette) and accessories trading
Electronic devices that contain liquid mixed with some amount of nicotine to produce vapour when inhaled have become popular in the last few years. Majority of smokers choose to vape assuming it is less harmful than traditional cigarettes, and also, in a bid to gradually quit smoking. E-cigarettes or vapes are available in several flavours and can be accessorised. Thus, the demand for vapes is fairly high.
- In lieu of public safety, the traders must issue health warnings similar to that for tobacco and regular cigarettes
- Ejari is mandatory. The owners may set up shop in either malls or stand-alone buildings.
- Emirates Standardization and Meteorology Authority (ESMA)
- Dubai Municipality – Narcotics Department
- DED – NOC from relevant official
3. Selling or serving of non-halal products
Two of the major items that top the list of prohibited items in the Middle Eastern countries include alcohol and pork. The UAE, however, respects and cares about all its residents regardless of their personal, lifestyle choices and religious belief. However, strict regulations have been laid out for the trading and handling non-halal goods.
Supermarkets require a commercial license with special approval for dealing with pork products, while a liquor trading license needs to be procured depending on the nature of activities involving alcohol you wish to carry out.
These can be importing, selling to third parties, and serve in a hotel, restaurant, or club.
- Supermarkets selling pork meat and other products containing pork must have a separate section of at least 232 sqm away from regular products
- They should also appoint designated staffers to handle pork products and control the freezer temperature
- Restaurants serving pork must clearly specify the dishes in a sperate menu page in both English and Arabic
- Alcohol can only be served in restaurants located in four- or five- star hotels
- Refrain from advertising about the sale of liquor
- Dubai Municipality (DM) – Food safety and public safety departments. Permit from Department of Economic Development (DED)
- Dubai Police General Headquarter (DPGH) – For those selling liquor
4. Wireless telecommunications equipment trading and wired & wireless communication systems installation
Technology is a crucial aspect of fast-paced cities like Dubai and its urban population. This leads to high demands for seamless connectivity possible through wireless systems. At the same time wireless communications are sensitive, and thus, require to be monitored closely.
- Commercial for trading of equipment that helps in transmission of voice, data, text, audio, and video via mobile phones and other devices
- Professional for installation services
- Imported equipment should not interfere with or cause any damage to the networks
- Devices must meet specified technical standards
- “Type approval” from Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA)
- Commercial space (shop or office) is mandatory
5. Jewellery / luxury goods trading
The presence of world-famous franchises and brands in Dubai itself proves that the city is a heaven for international shoppers who splurge in luxurious products. Be it precious jewellery or high-worth antiques, there’s no dearth of buyers.
- The store should be at least 150 sqft to 200 sqft
- Owners need to install surveillance cameras, security alarm, and a video guard
Security Industry Regulatory Authority (SIRA)
6. Women / gents haircutting & hairdressing salons
The pandemic may have led people to “fix” their looks at home for a few months but the business of making people look good did not suffer too long. Moreover, the UAE’s beauty industry is slated to have a market share of USD 3 billion by 2025.
- The outlet should have a minimum space of 200 sqft
- Dubai Municipality (DM) – Health & Public safety department
- DED – Commercial compliance & consumer protection sector
7. Educational services / support services
Several activities can be covered under this business activity, including, training tutors, assisting students with university application, and preparing them for examinations. Private tutoring, however, is illegal in the UAE.
- Provide list of services
- Template of certification (if any will be provided to individuals)
- Proof of affiliation to local or foreign institutes
Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) issues various types of additional approval for business. Moreover, this authority is quite through with permits when it comes to educational businesses.
— Nima Jameel Jabri, Legal Corporate Advisor & Sales Team Lead