Bahrain to ease clamp on sheesha
Manama, April 14, 2012
Hotels in Bahrain will soon be allowed to serve sheesha throughout the year instead of only during Ramadan, along with cafes and restaurants previously prohibited from doing so, said a top official.
However, all outlets will have to fulfil Health Ministry health and safety regulations before the Manama Municipal Council plan is implemented.
"Let's be more realistic here, sheesha has become a habit for many Bahrainis and is now a tourist attraction that many visitors are interested to experience," said council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor, an anti-smoking campaigner.
"The Industry and Commerce Ministry issues Commercial Registrations (CRs) and in some cases it allows cafes and restaurants to serve sheesha, and others not, despite sheesha being a treat for many, such as drinking coffee or eating a meal.
"This has meant that those who have paid extra CR fees to serve sheesha and those with regular cafe and restaurant permits started serving it (illegally) to meet customer demand.
"The Health Ministry has introduced conditions on licensed cafes and restaurants serving sheesha, which in most cases are respected."
Mansoor said the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry was responsible for inspections on outlets to ensure that they fulfil all government requirements.
"However, most of the time violations were left unattended due to shortage of municipal staff and lack of clear guidelines on what action the ministry was supposed to take," he said.
Mansoor, who is also the council's financial, administrative and legislative committee chairman, said it was time for more realistic regulations to be introduced.
"The Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry allows hotels to open shops and restaurants within the vicinity," he said.
"But it disallows serving sheesha while there are many staying there who want to have a sheesha at the poolside or inside the hotel's facilities without going out and this has made some hotels unofficially start serving it from under the counter. What is illogical is that hotels are allowed to serve sheesha in Ramadan tents, so allowing them to do so throughout the year would be the logical choice."
Mansoor said the Industry and Commerce Ministry should either remove extra fees imposed on outlets selling sheesha or make the charges mandatory on all outlets.
"This gives the Health Ministry the chance to exercise its health and safety requirements on all smoking outlets and at the same time allows municipal inspectors to have more authority in determining if the place is violating rules or not," he said.
"At the moment, things tend to be chaotic as the three ministries don't have the slightest idea of what's going on." – TradeArabia News Service