Bahrain mulls new rules to ease sheesha clamp
Manama, July 28, 2013
Hotels across Bahrain could soon be allowed to serve sheesha throughout the year in a bid to boost business, a report said.
By law they are only allowed to serve the popular tobacco pipe during Ramadan, although authorities have for years turned a blind eye, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
But the Manama Municipal Council is now studying new rules to properly regulate the sector by issuing hotels with licences for all their outlets, including restaurants, bars and at poolside.
However, the facilities should abide by health, safety and municipal standards which are applicable to other venues in all five governorates.
"The concept of modern hotels today is comprehensive services whether rooms, food and beverages, recreational, fitness and family facilities and shopping," said council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor.
"It is illogical to allow them to serve alcoholic beverages throughout the year and only allow them to serve sheesha, which is publicly more acceptable and in demand, just during Ramadan.
"Sheesha should be offered throughout the year and should follow the same standards that are required of Ramadan tents. They can be served at a hotel's existing facilities like restaurants, bars or at poolsides - but in a manner that ensures non-smokers are separated from smokers.
"I am a non-smoker, but I understand regular complaints from hotels that sheesha attracts business as without it many don't tend to come for dining or consume their favourite beverage or drink."
Dozens of hotels will benefit from the new law - majority of which are located in the Capital Governorate and come under the council's jurisdiction.
A heated debate erupted between councillors during their bi-weekly session, where some demanded taking action against hotels that have been flouting existing regulations by serving sheesha illegally throughout the year.
However, Mansoor said the new proposal will tackle the problem and ensure the properties follow strict municipal rules.
"It is because hotels are not licensed to serve sheesha throughout the year that some are violating the rules by serving it unlicensed and in disregard to health, safety and municipal standards," he said.
"Hotels can easily pay BD20 ($52) or BD50 fine monthly, which wouldn't make a difference because they would make thousands of dinars from providing the service.
"For that we are working to bring it under the law and instead of it being a fine, we could be taking it as a fee, just to ensure that requirements are fulfilled and that the service is being provided in a proper manner that doesn't risk people's lives or well-being."
Meanwhile, Supreme Council for Tourism's five-star hotels executive committee chairman Abdulnabi Daylami said hotels in Bahrain have conflicting opinions about the issue.
"There are hotels that consider it as a service they are obliged to provide, others think it's unnecessary and wouldn't help improve tourism or create a positive image with many complaints about smokers bothering others," he said.
"Personally, I am against serving sheesha within facilities of hotels and can understand it being presented to customers in tents during Ramadan as a special case, but not throughout the year. There are four out of nine five-star hotels that are currently serving sheesha and with any new relaxation in rules they would be certainly benefiting."
Daylami said the council should conduct a survey on potential business garnered from serving sheesha in hotels.
"A few years back, we wanted to have a second tobacco shop in hotels, but the Health Ministry refused saying that one was enough," he said.
"It is unfortunate that we don't have a comprehensive study that shows negatives and positives of serving sheesha that we could build on whether we stand with or against it. If councillors believe that serving sheesha would be good and would help get business, then it would be an option not an obligation for hotels that want to provide it." – TradeArabia News Service
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