Ajman stops issuing shisha cafe licences

Ajman Municipality has sent notices asking shisha cafes to find alternative premises away from residential areas.

AJMAN // Ajman Municipality has stopped issuing licences for shisha cafes in residential areas to enforce the new national smoking ban. Cafes have been sent notices asking them to find alternative premises away from homes, said Yahaya al Riyasah, the assistant director general of the department of licensing. Those who fail to relocate within the stipulated two-year grace period will not have their licences renewed.

"We are very keen to implement the federal laws as they are all in the interest of the people," he said. His office is receiving calls from residents asking them when shisha cafes would be moved, he said. "For all residents, we want to say this is going to be a gradual process, starting with a ban on licensing new cafes to not renewing old licences. We believe in two years, no [shisha] cafe will still be standing in a residential area."

The federal anti-smoking law, announced earlier this month, is particularly significant for Ajman, often referred to as the "shisha town". The emirate has a thriving shisha scene, with cafes on almost every corner. Shisha smokers flock there from the more conservative emirates of Umm al Qaiwain and Sharjah. Residents frequently complain about late-night noise. "Imagine all smokers from Umm al Qaiwain, Sharjah and Ajman itself coming over here to this small emirate," Uthuman al Khaja, an Emirati living in Ajman, said.

His local shisha cafe had more than 100 smokers at weekends. "You cannot sleep on Thursday night until its morning," he added. ykakande@thenational.ae

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