Bahraini officials to hold crunch talks over alcohol ban
Manama, July 14, 2014
Crunch talks will be held today (July 14) between business leaders and government officials to discuss a ban on alcohol in three-star hotels in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) fears the Culture Ministry decree, which also covers shutting down nightclubs and bars in the properties, will dramatically affect tourism in the country, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The ministry yesterday said the ban was being enforced following reports of immoral activities taking place in some hotels, which could face legal action for violating regulations.
However, investors have urged authorities to delay the ban to allow hotels to regulate their legal situation.
"The meeting is a closed door meeting between BCCI chairman (Khalid Almoayed) and Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa," said a senior BCCI board member.
"The issue has been taken up by the chairman because it is a big deal that has large ramifications."
The chamber earlier underlined the importance of avoiding any decision which may damage trade, industrial and tourism sectors.
It said three-star hotels will suffer major losses if they revoke contracts signed with Arab and foreign singers and dancers.
"The owners of the three-star hotels have been shaking after this news," said a prominent Bahraini businessman, who wished to be unnamed.
"These hotels have contracts with staff that will have to be cancelled, major renovations that they will have to go through to either up their rank to four-star or turn their hotels into boutiques.
"This will require a lot of capital for a lot of hotels who make a significant portion of their revenue from their venues - so to shut them down will put a huge amount of financial stress on owners as they change their whole business model from venue dependent income to occupancy dependent income."
He added that customers visited three-star hotel in Bahrain because they were cheaper than those in the UAE, but he fears the ban will drive them away "in droves".
However, the ministry said it took the decision to ban the selling and serving of alcohol or hosting any shows with Arab and foreign artists at three-star hotels after more than a year of "careful consideration".
"The decision has been taken following reports of immoral activities taking place in some hotels," it said in a statement.
"The ministry has warned of legal action against violators."
It also said poor quality of rooms and customer service provided by the hotels adversely affect the country's reputation.
"Three-star hotels ignored the ministry's repeated requests to rectify its problems with regard to quality and administration," it added.
"The hotels were violating service ethics by depending more on other facilities than on rooms.
"The income of these hotels mainly depends on facilities and not the rooms, which constitute only 23 per cent of their profits."
The ministry said it has given investors a chance to upgrade their services to four-star standards, with an effective ban on illegal activities until then. - TradeArabia News Service