Some shisha cafes in Umm Al Quwain report more customers after being forced to move

As tobacco law takes effect, residents in UAQ welcome cleaner air while owners of some cafes see challenge as opportunity.
Shisha cafe owners have seen an increase in business since moving to the ndustrial area of UAQ. The enforced relocation has turned into an opportunity for increased revenues. Lee Hoagland / The National
Shisha cafe owners have seen an increase in business since moving to the ndustrial area of UAQ. The enforced relocation has turned into an opportunity for increased revenues. Lee Hoagland / The National

UMM AL QUWAIN // Residents have reacted positively to the relocation of shisha cafes away from residential areas, with some owners noting an upturn in business.

A federal law on tobacco was passed in 2009 but it came into effect in the emirate only this year after officials gave cafe owners three months from last December to find alternative premises. These had to be situated at least 100 metres from mosques and at least 150 metres from residential buildings, schools and hospitals.

In Umm Al Qaiwain, cafes were told to move to the emirate’s industrial area.

Abdulmoneam Salah, an Egyptian landscape engineer, said it did not bother him that shisha cafes had moved because it was not far from his home.

“It takes from my place to the cafe maximum 15 minutes compared to five minutes when it was in the residential area,” he said.

The 25-year-old said that no one he knew was particularly bothered by the cafes moving because the emirate is small and everything is quite close together, adding that shisha cafe customer numbers have probably gone up.

“After the transfer, the number of customers was noticeably increased because owners increased the space of the cafe and services,” Mr Salah said.

One cafe owner agreed. Shrif Saeed, a manager at Al Madar Cafe, said the move led to an increase in customers and income, but also rent.

“The cafe was small before, in an old, residential area with a cheap rent, but now we increased the space, which increased the rent, income and customer numbers,” he said.

Mr Saeed added that the move was loss-making at first because he had to equip the new space but he has been compensated by the increased revenue.

“It cost me more for the decoration and everything; it cost for the rent Dh100,000 and the decoration, equipment and network of electricity and water cost Dh150,000,” he said, adding that, although the cafe is in the industrial area, the restaurants and cafes overlook the main street and are away from workshops and noise.

Palestinian shisha smoker Ahmad Moin Azzam, 25, said he now goes to cafes less often but that the relocation did not affect him.

“The transfer of cafes didn’t bother me because both areas are the same distance from my home, but now I only go on Friday,” he said.

Some cafe owners, however, said they were still trying to recoup the losses from the relocation.

Ibrahim Khalil bin Took, the owner of Beverly Hills cafe, suffered significant losses as a result of the move.

“Within a year of my cafe opening in the residential area, which cost me about Dh150,000, the Government asked me to move after three months,” said Mr Took. “After that, I opened the new one, which cost me about Dh170,000.”

He said the move did not result in a drop in his income but the fact that the industrial area did not have water and electricity was a major headache.

“The industrial area is a commercial place but it is not equipped to be commercial. It doesn’t have water and electricity, which led me to pay from my budget to provide the cafe with a complete network, air conditioners and ceramics,” Mr Took said, who was also frustrated by moving because, he said, his cafe in the residential area was 700 metres from residential buildings.

“After this transfer, the emirate’s customers prefer now to go to Ajman’s cafes, with a sea view to relax, instead of sitting in a place full of dust and odours – even I prefer to go to Ajman,” he said.

Mansoor Sultan Al Kharji, managing director at the Department of Economic Development in UAQ, said: “[Moving cafes] will help us to preserve the health of our children.

“The availability of cafes in residential areas makes it easier for a person to go from his parents’ place to the cafe without telling them, especially teenagers who are difficult to control.”

He said that three new cafes had opened in the industrial area, in addition to the 13 that moved from the Al Hamra, Essa and Al Reqa areas.

roueiti@thenational.ae

Published: November 12, 2014 04:00 AM

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