Alcohol ban on Bahrain's three-star hotels to stay
Manama, July 15, 2014
Bahrain's Culture Ministry said it has no plans to reverse an alcohol ban imposed on three-star hotels last week.
The three-star hotels claim they could be forced to close as a result of the ban, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
However, the Culture Ministry has pledged to help hotel owners who want to upgrade their facilities to four stars
Crunch talks between hotel representatives and the ministry, including Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, took place at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) yesterday (July 14).
However, authorities are sticking by their decision - which will also see nightclubs and live entertainment banned in three-star properties.
Hotels in the two and one-star category are already banned from serving alcohol or staging live entertainment.
During yesterday's meeting, three-star hotel representatives asked the ministry to delay its decision, which comes into effect immediately, to allow them to upgrade their status.
"It (the ban) is permanent," a Culture Ministry spokesman told the GDN after the meeting.
"We are in discussions with the three-star hotels and we will continue the process of improving them to get a four-star rating.
"We will help them with our specialists and our consultants - our doors are always open to all."
Among those at the meeting was Caravan Group of Hotels chairman Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, who complained about the short notice given to three-star hotel owners.
"The decision is not investor-friendly," he said.
"If the ministry wanted to do this that is fine, but not so abruptly. We need time to wind down operations and divest or slowly invest to reach the standard.
"We (hoteliers) suggested that the decision should be implemented in three years to allow us to plan and react accordingly.
"Yet they (the ministry) went to an extreme stand, which was very abrupt even for the ministry."
He revealed several three-star hotels had already been given permits to hire performers scheduled to start after Ramadan, meaning they would have to tear up contracts already approved by authorities.
"They (the ministry) said rooms were not up to standard and gave examples of investigators who warned hotels to change something and they didn't," added Shaikh Mohammed.
"If any hotel was not responding there are procedures - they can revoke the licence or shut them down temporarily.
"I don't understand why they made the decision for all three-star hotels, instead of just going after those who failed to change.
"We all have to renew our licence and get inspected by the ministry. The practices have been the same for years and the inspectors have approved the hotels and allowed for licences to be renewed, so to say that hotels are in not in good order doesn't make sense - are the inspectors not doing their jobs and, if not, why should we all have to pay?
"There was another three-star representative at the meeting who invested everything they had into a hotel that has thriving entertainment, thinking it was a sound investment.
"They took loans and invested time and effort - now with this ban it doesn't look like they will be able to sustain their hotel and will probably file for bankruptcy."
The BCCI originally expressed concerns that the decision could damage tourism in Bahrain.
"We are not a party to this decision nor the discussions, we are merely facilitators for our members," said BCCI chairman Khalid Almoayed.
"We offered to provide a platform to reach a conclusion."
The ban has been enforced amid allegations of "immoral activities" in some hotels, which is thought to be a reference to prostitution, substandard facilities and owners ignoring licensing regulations by operating properties as entertainment venues rather than hotels. - TradeArabia News Service