Bahrain puts relaxed sheesha rules on hold
Manama, July 6, 2014
Plans to allow all of Bahrain's hotels to legally serve sheesha year-round have been shelved pending feedback from the Health Ministry.
The country's five municipal councils approved the relaxed rules last month, which needs the ministry's evaluation before being implemented, said Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi.
Previously, the traditional tobacco pipe was only supposed to be served in 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.
However, all outlets still need to be 100 m 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.
Dr Al Ka'abi told the GDN that since the councils' four-year term ended on June 30, he had the power to make necessary changes to the regulations based on instructions provided by the Health Ministry.
"We are co-ordinating with the Health Ministry to fast-track the instructions that would explain necessary requirements for serving sheesha at hotels' facilities," he said.
"It will also outline other requirements for those serving sheesha elsewhere in line with the relaxed rules.
"However, the Capital Governorate is a special case and is a mixture of government, business and residential zones, so the distance requirement is very difficult if not impossible, which is why I am planning to have it waived.
"The plan is sitting on my desk and awaits the Health Ministry's feedback and whenever we receive it, the rules will be implemented."
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.
Dr Al Ka'abi said violators who are currently serving sheesha without a licence will be referred to the Public Prosecution.
"We have directed the concerned municipalities to take legal action against perpetrators serving sheesha from restaurants or other unlicensed facilities and there are no exceptions," he added.
The new regulations should have been out by the end of last year, but they were delayed because the Manama Municipal Council described the revamped regulations as "too relaxed" and "vague".
But last month, it voted to remove its objections on the grounds that it would help health and safety regulations be better enforced. - TradeArabia News Service