ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – There is a growing desire for nightclubs in the Kurdistan Region, but officials in Sulaimani and Duhok are hesitant to issue licenses, wanting to ensure they can regulate the entertainment venues.
“Eight people applied for licenses to open nightclubs, but we didn’t issue them,” said Ali Rauf, head of Sulaimani’s tourism board.
“In Sulaimani’s security committee meeting, most committee members rejected issuing licenses for such places for now,” he explained, adding that they expect the number of applicants will jump if they start granting licenses.
Duhok has received four applicants for nightclubs in the city.
“Three people applied in late 2018 for licenses to open nightclubs, and one this year,” Khalid Haider, head of the licensing unit at Duhok’s tourism department, told Rudaw. “We have rejected one of these applications and the other three remain pending.”
In addition to a tourism board license, the governor and Asayesh have to approve applications before a nightclub is given the green light to open.
Kurdistan Region’s Tourism Department says it has not issued any nightclub licenses, but there are some unofficial ones operating outside the law.
“Licenses are issued for restaurants and bars, but not for nightclubs. There are however some nightclubs working outside the law, but a blind eye has been turned to them due to the large numbers of tourists coming from Iran and southern Iraq,” Aram Shwan, spokesperson for the Sulaimani Tourism Board, told Rudaw.
Sulaimani police, however, recently closed some illegal venues.
“In a police campaign, our forces in collaboration with the Crime Prevention Police closed five nightclubs in Sarchinar neighborhood alone because their owners did not commit to the instructions of the Tourism Board,” Sulaimani police spokesperson Sarkawt Ahmad told Rudaw.
These locations were not nightclubs, but bars, maintained Mawlawi Jabar Wahab, head of the General Board of Tourism for the Region.
“No license has thus far been issued to open nightclubs. We have restaurants and bars. Those closed down in Sulaimani are bars not nightclubs, but some people have mistaken them for nightclubs,” he told Rudaw.
A few venues are operating in Erbil.
“Any place where music, parties or dancing takes place is called a nightclub. Erbil Tourism Board has licensed these places which pay 25 million dinars in tax,” said Erbil Mayor Nabaz Abdul-Hamid.
Other locations in the city have been shut down because they lacked a license or violated regulations, he added.