New sheesha rule approved in Bahrain
Manama, June 19, 2014
New rules allowing all of Bahrain's hotels to legally serve sheesha year-round have finally been approved by all five municipal councils.
Previously, the traditional tobacco pipe was only supposed to be served in the country's hotels during Ramadan, but its use during the rest of the year was commonplace and authorities had long turned a blind eye, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The new rules, put forward last October, will officially allow hotels to serve sheesha in restaurants, bars and poolside areas all year and had already been approved by four of the country's five councils.
The only hold-out was Manama Municipal Council, which last month described the revamped regulations as "too relaxed" and "vague", but it too yesterday (June 18) removed its objections on the grounds that it would help health and safety regulations be better enforced.
"As I see it, the new rules are fine and would help regulate the use of sheesha in hotels," said council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor.
"Councillors have concerns that the government is encouraging smoking rather than trying to stamp it out, but I don't see it like that - it is just the government trying to enforce realistic organisation."
Under the new rules, sheesha outlets will 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 and cannot be opened in villas, residential compounds, sports clubs, public gardens, parks, commercial centres or shopping malls.
Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi said the new regulations will make it easier to monitor the use of sheesha.
"Hotels will not be allowed to serve sheesha without permission from the Health and Interior ministries, which take into consideration health and safety matters," he said.
"It is not just a new source of municipal revenue that we are thinking about - we are aiming for better organisation in a business that has been in disarray."
He added that Ramadan, when exceptional licences are granted for the serving of sheesha, would be the best time for a smooth roll-out of new regulations.
"The same requirements that hotels are obliged to follow during Ramadan will continue throughout the rest of the year - with minor changes since no tents will be set-up and normal facilities inside the hotels will be used instead," he said. - TradeArabia News Service