Customers frustrated as Abu Dhabi shops shut down

Abu Dhabi residents awoke yesterday to find many of their corner groceries had closed for good, and some are wondering why...

ABU DHABI // Customers turned up at their favourite corner shops yesterday to find the shutters down and many businesses closed for good.

"They are also calling and asking us to deliver," said the owner of a grocery in the Muroor Road area that has shut.

"Some people don't know what's going on and are very shocked to hear it has closed."

The shut-down shops have not complied with regulations aimed at modernising the capital's 1,300 local groceries. The deadline was December 31. The Muroor owner hopes to raise Dh150,000 to upgrade his shop and then re-open it. In the meantime, he says: "The customers are having to cross the highway to get to a shop, which takes more than 15 minutes because it is a busy highway."

Ali Mohammed Al Oudat, 17, a customer from Jordan, said: "I think it is not a good idea.

"When all the groceries close down we have to go to Al Wahda, which is far away, to the mall, or something like Adnoc, which is too far."

A company director, Nabih Mousa, who lives in Khalidiya, thought the shops should have closed in stages.

"I will have to go to Carrefour or Al Wahda Mall by car. It's inconvenient and there is pollution," he said. "Maybe from the inside they didn't look very pretty but who cares if they have everything?"

Harish Chetty, a 26-year-old engineer from India, found his usual grocery near his office off 29th Street closed.

"We had come to purchase some normal things and we couldn't get in. We now have to cross Muroor Road to get to a supermarket. It will take 15 minutes to get there. I normally come to the grocery. It's convenient for us. It's a stone's throw away from our office," he said.

Manu Pillai, 36, also an engineer from India, had gone to the same grocery.

"I used to buy cigarettes, juices and chocolates from the grocery. I didn't know it was going to shut so quickly. It's really inconvenient," he said.

Jomon Jacob, 30, who works in the same area, said people used to be able to depend on groceries for emergencies - when they ran out of something or if guests arrived.

But Mohammed Melki, 24, an insurance consultant from Lebanon, had a different view.

"I don't use the groceries because the Lulu supermarket is right next to me and has a huge variety," he said.

"I don't have a clear idea of what the regulations are but usually when there is a regulation it has a purpose."

Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority told the capital's groceries in May 2011 that they had until the end of 2012 to modernise. It said the changes are needed to bring shops in line with global food-safety procedures and the goal is to standardise the appearance of the stores and improve the services offered to shoppers.

Some grocery owners have said they were unable to afford the changes and had to shut. Others have closed for renovation, and some have been ungraded and renamed Baqala, Arabic for grocery.