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One Step Better in Abu Dhabi, at PJ O’Reilly’s Pub

November 11, 2011

I complained yesterday in my post about how I found a music bar that refused me entry with a guitar and camera. Last night I managed to get a step closer to Nirvana in an expat bar called PJ O’Reilly’s, located within the compound of the Royale Meridien Hotel in downtown Abu Dhabi.

I say I got just a step closer because I managed to get into the bar with my guitar and my camera and no questions were asked. And I also managed to sit there for some time contemplating how, when and why I would approach a member of the house band to ask about places to play at jams or open mics in Abu Dhabi.

But as I sat and listened to this cover band and the music was very loud, and the full-house of clients dancing, laughing, joking, talking and moving about in cramped quarters, and as I used my Zoom Q3HD camera to try to get some of the music and atmosphere on video, I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind after only my third video. It was a security guard who told me I had to turn off my video recorder.

“No videos,” he yelled.

Well, this was all a step closer to my goal of finding my musical jam, open mic or other venue to mark my musical territory in Abu Dhabi. But, of course, there still seems to remain a very large hurdle before I get there. On the other hand, with two venues in a row that don’t like cameras, I’m beginning to form an interesting picture of music in Abu Dhabi. Hope it’s the wrong one….

In the end, the bar was so jam-packed, my welcome less than that, and when between sets I sought out a band member and found I could barely move and that even if I did find a band member they would not hear my voice over the loud piped in music, I decided to leave PJ O’Reilly’s and call it a failure. I’ll try another couple of ideas tonight.


  1. Hi Brad,

    I’ m the PR Manager for Le Royal Meridien and I use to be the Manager of P.J’s. I was reading your blog last week and i thought I would send you a response.

    Taking video in this country can be tricky as i can be offensive to locals unless you have their permission and on top of that it could be viewed as a security issue, so please try to understand. These rules are from the government, not the establishment.

    For one, I agree with the Open Mic night and it is something I have been working on for a few months. The issue is local law from ADTA which we all must follow. Currently entertainment licenses are required from everyone who is a DJ or Musician and believe it or not, you also need a license to play cd’s if you host a Kareoke night!

    So this is what I found from ADTA. P.J’s can hold an Open Mic night without a license but you would need a license to bring your own guitar in and play at a table? I do have this info in a e-mail!

    So please get in contact with me and I am willing to assist to get this off the ground. We can start off as a once off special night and if their is enough support for it, we are happy to make this a weekly event. How does that sound?

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    • Hi Shannon, well aren’t you wonderful!! This confirms for me that PJ O’Reilly’s was actually the most open and lively and “with it” bar that I went to in Abu Dhabi. Thank you so much for explaining exactly why things are as they are there. And please do realize that despite my disappointment and criticism, I did feel retrospectively as if the best treatment I had was at PJ O’Reilly’s – compared to the other places where I was treated with real disdain. It was my first time going to Abu Dhabi with my guitar and cameras and looking for places to perform, so it was a real shock and letdown, as I have encountered that kind of situation nowhere else on any of the continents and cities of the world – including China, India, Sao Paulo, Budapest, Kuala Lumpur, South Korea…. Anyway, Abu Dhabi is a special place. I thank you a million times over for offering to try to set up an open mic night, as well, and inviting me to be a part of it. I would have loved to do this, but I actually live in Paris, France! (I’m from Canada.) But maybe if I return next year during the Formula One race – I’m an F1 journalist as well as playing music – we could meet, and perhaps do some music? And perhaps you’ll have something set up by then? Thanks again for your gracious response. It is important for me to understand what lays behind what I found in the musical and bar culture of Abu Dhabi.

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