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Alcohol ban ‘would hit Bahrain economy'

Manama, May 6, 2009

Restaurants and hotel owners in Bahrain warned MPs against waging their war on alcohol, saying any ban could cripple the economy.

They were reacting after parliament voted in favour of a ban on alcohol in all restaurants and hotel bars, as well as at Duty Free.

If MPs get their way Bahrain’s residents would be forced to drink at home, while hotel guests would only be able to drink in their rooms.

However, the vote sparked an angry response from members of the restaurant and hotel trade yesterday.

Paolo Arca, managing partner and executive chef at the popular Italian restaurant Oliveto, Adliya, said the ban would undermine efforts to promote the country as a liberal
destination for tourists and businessmen.

He added that if the ban goes through, a recently completed project to pedestrianise
Adliya would be wasted – since many restaurants would be forced out of business.
“It’s not possible, it’s just not possible,” he told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News yesterday.

“Adliya has just made a huge effort for tourism, with the nice gardens and the nice
roads, but this ban would mean no foreigners would come here and no business would come here.

“Why do people come to Bahrain? There are nice hotels, but there is no beach. “People don’t want to be stuck in the hotel for the whole time, they want to go out and socialise, to eat good food and to see people.'

“If this happens, I will have to close my restaurant and go back to Italy – this is a huge problem.”

He revealed he had been approached to open another restaurant in Bahrain, but said his decision would be based on whether or not he would be able to serve alcohol.

“How will I make a new business now?” he asked. “I have been offered land on which to build a new restaurant, but it would not be possible if alcohol is banned.”

General manager of nearby Cafe Italia, Cyrus Graesslin, was also surprised, but remained philosophical.

“We are expatriates living in this country,” he said. “We know what’s on the table when we come here and if people don’t like that, they are not being forced to stay. “There’s no doubt it (the ban) will hurt business though.'

“When I first moved here 15 years ago, Bahrain was much more liberal, but that’s evolution and there’s been movement throughout the world.'

“I think everyone predicted that the planned vote would be passed by the MPs, but we’re just not sure how far it will go.'

“At least we have time to react, unlike one and two-star hotels,” added Graesslin, referring to the one-day notice given to one and two-star hotels to stop serving alcohol and halt live entertainment last month.

Caravan Group of Hotels managing director Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa – whose company owns the Adhari Hotel, the Aradous Hotel and the Delmon International Hotel – said the blanket ban would take the country backwards.

“This ban would certainly not help tourism in Bahrain,” he said. “Strictly from the point of view of Bahrain’s economy and commerce, it will have a tremendous affect.'

“Drinking alcohol is the personal choice of the individual.'

“His Majesty King Hamad and the government have created a good ground for choice while continuing the commitment to Islam, but now it seems we have taken a few steps backwards.'

“This is unfortunate. I think we need more guidelines on alcohol in this country, like the issue of underage drinking and drinking and driving, but we should not restrict ourselves totally.”

Other restaurateurs, who did not want to be named, echoed some of those sentiments.

“I don’t think this law will come into effect,” said one man hopefully. “The law that has been set out for restaurants in non-residential areas is pretty clear and I think they will stick to it.'

“They have spent millions on the Adliya area and I


Tags: Bahrain | hotels | alcohol ban |

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