Dubai Marina residents hit out at shisha cafes over passive smoke

Many people say the cafes flout regulations, most pertinently the rule that does not allow shisha smoking around children.

Shisha cafes have been warned of huge fines if they do not stick to the regulations set out by Dubai Municipality. Marwan Naamani / AFP
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DUBAI // Cafes and restaurants selling shisha in Dubai Marina are at risk of huge fines because of confusion over regulations.

Cafes must adhere to a long list of Dubai Municipality rules to legally sell shisha, but some marina residents say cafes are putting their health and that of others at risk from passive smoking.

Residents at Marina Tower, which is near several cafes selling shisha, have made more than 35 complaints to the municipality in the past two years, mainly about smoking near families and fumes entering apartments.

A spokesman for residents there said many cafes appeared to be flouting the rules, or they were not being enforced.

“The smell is horrible,” he said. “We had to put a lot of pressure on the building management to find out how cafes have managed to join the main building extractor. The law states a shisha cafe should have its own extraction.

“Thursday, Friday and Saturday are particularly bad, and when football is on. It is also very noisy. Families come here and you cannot have a child next to someone smoking shisha but it is very common here in the marina.”

Fines for cafes start at Dh5,000 for first offenders, Dh10,000 for a second offence , then a letter is sent by the municipality to Dubai Economic Department to close the business after a third breach.

In October, the municipality made 336 visits to restaurants and cafes. Government inspectors made 1,680 visits, handing out 450 fines, between April and October.

Rules, which must be followed to get an annual permit, include that the space allotted for shisha must not be greater than 50 per cent of floor space, with a separate non-smoking area.

There must be a minimum distance of 150 metres between cafes and residential areas, although Dubai Marina is a special case as a tourism centre.

Shisha must not be smoked within 1.5 metres of a footpath, 7.5 metres of building entrances, other shops and windows, and 3.5 metres of swimming pools.

Hotels must provide an outside area for shisha and all businesses must have a notice of compliance or no objection letter from the building owner and Civil Defence to serve legally.

They must have an independent ventilation system. The law is the same throughout the UAE.

Marwan Al Mohammad, director of public health and safety department at Dubai Municipality, said plain-clothed inspectors often visited businesses to check they were following the rules.

“There are many clauses to say where shisha can be sold and what are the circumstances,” Mr Al Mohammad said. “It depends on individual communities but we are following the law here.

“Restaurants and bars must have separate areas and there must be adequate air-conditioning between the two areas.”

He said fines could rise to Dh40,000.

Sarah Ianni, from Italy, has been assistant manager at the Latino Cafe in the marina since March and said shisha was more popular than food at the cafe.

“We’ve had one complaint from the residents above about smoke but it is not a war,” Ms Ianni said.

“The main worry is smoking around children, as this is not allowed. There have been some problems with families who want to smoke around children.

“It is up to them as parents what they do but I tell them it is not allowed here. The fines are expensive but the health of children is more important.”