Bid to ease sheesha clamp in Bahrain
Manama, May 9, 2014
All of Bahrain's hotels will be legally allowed to serve sheesha year-round from next month if rules relating to the traditional tobacco pipe are relaxed, a report said.
By law sheesha is only allowed to be served at hotels in Bahrain during the month of Ramadan, but authorities have long turned a blind eye to its use the rest of the year, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
New rules that officially allow hotels to serve sheesha in restaurants, bars and poolside areas all year were referred to the country's five municipal councils in October - and four councils have since approved them.
Manama Municipal Council was the only hold-out claiming that the rules were "too relaxed," but its technical committee yesterday gave the thumbs-up to the new directive.
It will now be voted on during the council's meeting on Wednesday before being referred to Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi to issue a ministerial decision.
"There has been a mistake defining a hotel as the government considers it residential, while it is in fact an investment that includes several businesses," said council acting chairman Mohammed Mansoor.
"Hotels are not homes and they have wedding halls, gyms, restaurants and cafŽs, among other facilities, while also selling alcohol and cigars.
"So serving sheesha shouldn't be a problem - and with the new rules coming into effect next month at the latest, municipal and health inspectors will stop bothering hotels who offer this service."
Mansoor added that the new rules will make an anti-smoking law easier to implement.
"I understand the reasons behind tough laws and legislation, with the government's commitment to stamp out smoking," he said.
"But coming up with tough rules has made most anti-smoking legislation issued in 2008 lack power.
"For example, ensuring sheesha outlets are 200 metres away from other buildings is very difficult and in most cases many continue selling sheesha despite facing legal action."
Under the new rules sheesha outlets would be allowed to open on streets classified as commercial, but only in multi-storey buildings that do not have entrances facing the street or a pavement terrace.
Authorisation could also be given for outlets on service roads where garages, welding shops and factories are located, but only with consent from the Supreme Council for Environment.
However, all outlets still need to be 100 metres from the nearest government building, educational facility, residential area, place of worship, diplomatic mission or social club.
The size of any outlet should also be no less than 150sqm and they cannot be opened in villas, residential compounds, sports clubs, public gardens, parks, commercial centres or shopping malls.
Councillor Mohammed Al Hawaj, a smoker himself who originally convinced other councillors to reconsider the sheesha rules, said 55 outlets across Bahrain would effectively be legalised under the new legislation.
"We have to strike a balance between allowing smoking without restrictions and having it practised moderately," he said.
"We all agree that smoking shouldn't be allowed in some places like malls but in hotels it should be, because people there want all services without leaving the facility." – TradeArabia News Service