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A sheesha cafe in Manama ... new row

New sheesa cafe timings in Bahrain backed

MANAMA, April 21, 2015

A decision to close sheesha cafes in Bahrain at midnight has sparked uproar among business owners and councillors.

However, the move taken last week by the Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry and Interior Ministry was yesterday (April 20) endorsed by the Cabinet, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Information Affairs Minister Isa Al Hammadi yesterday said tourist-licensed outlets will not be affected by the decision, which will only be enforced on cafes located in residential areas or those that have several complaints against them.

He said outlets wishing to operate 24 hours have to get special permits from the country's three municipal councils and the Capital Trustees Board, which replaced the Manama Municipal Council in December.

The GDN reported that notices of the new closing times for sheesha cafes across Bahrain were distributed on Thursday, which states the shops will only be open until midnight on weekdays and 1am on weekends.

“The timings are not strange to Bahrain and the decision to implement it has come through a joint decision by the two ministries concerned,” said Al Hammadi during a Press conference held after the weekly Cabinet session.

“The decision does not affect tourist-tagged outlets or those in non-residential areas, unless the council concerned votes otherwise.

“There have been several violations with many operating until early hours of the morning creating noise and disturbing peace, while others operate 24 hours without a licence.”

However, Capital Trustees Board chairman Mohammed Al Khozaae said the new timings should be extended due to the nature of Bahrain's nightlife.

“It should be 1am on weekdays and 3am on weekends with the outlets re-opening as early as 6am or 7am,” he explained.

Southern Municipal Council chairman Ahmed Al Ansari said many cafe owners had already contacted him to protest the decision.

“I am against smoking sheesha, but we have to take into consideration that it is part of what is considered normal these days,” he said.

Genuine

“I understand that there are genuine cases and I told them to submit a permission letter to open 24 hours and I will sign it.

“However, there are several violators operating with proper licences to serve sheesha, so it is good they will be allowed to serve until midnight rather than being shut permanently.”

Bahraini Ahmed Al Shaabani, who owns Carouca Cafe and Restaurant in Adliya, told the GDN majority of his customers showed up after 11pm and said the decision would drastically affect business.

“I am forced to close at midnight with this decision now, and even if there are football matches airing at that time I will have to order my customers to leave because I can't afford to pay thousands of dinars in fines,” he said.

“There are many people who come especially for the matches because they like to watch in groups, and many like to sit and talk or study for exams quietly in an allocated area while smoking sheesha - all these people will now be forced to go elsewhere.”

Another businessman, Hussain Bushehri, said most of his customers were GCC nationals who often stayed until 2am on weekends.

“My customers leave at 2am and I can't force them out before that, but now the police are ordering us to close at 12am,” said the owner of Masaya Cafe and Restaurant in Amwaj Islands.

“They [police] told all the cafe owners in Amwaj last week to sign a document pledging to close by midnight - no one signed, but now with the Cabinet endorsing it I will have to tell my customers to leave.

He said massive losses will be evident in June when the Copa America starts with matches scheduled for 1am.

“We have put in a lot of effort changing the decor and coming up with attractive competitions to make good profits during this time, but now I doubt it,” he added.

“Where would young people go now? Are there attractions for them?”

In 2006, a timing restriction on cafes was implemented by Bahrain's then five municipal councils, but was shelved after 10 days due to thousands of complaints submitted by business owners. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Cabinet | close | endorse | cafe | Sheesha |

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