A FRESH bid to allow all hotels in Bahrain to legally serve sheesha throughout the year has been launched.
The traditional tobacco pipe is only supposed to be served during Ramadan, but hotels continue to serve it all year round without a licence.
Municipal authorities initially planned to allow hotels to officially serve sheesha under a list of fees compiled by Bahrain’s municipal councils in 2014 following the intervention of the Health Ministry.
However, the proposal was since stalled because of a dispute between government bodies over the mechanism of the fee collection.
Capital Trustees Board chairman Mohammed Al Khozaie confirmed to the GDN that a new push to legalise the service in hotels has now been taken up by the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry since the establishments are classified as tourist facilities.
He explained that an agreement was in the works between both ministries on how to implement the licences and which government authority would collect the fees.
“I mean it is clear that no one wants to see sheesha served in hotel rooms because they are dangerous and could lead to serious repercussions,” said Mr Al Khozaie.
“But having sheesha served at hotel restaurants, bars or even poolside shouldn’t be an issue since it could be controlled through the Health Ministry’s rules and regulations.
“We are speaking as if hotels don’t serve sheesha in such manner, they do, and since the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) is not concerned about it and wants to attract business to tourist facilities they tend to turn a blind eye and not inform the Health Ministry.
“In all cases hotels are winners whether they are licensed or not, but the government could be getting something out of it by imposing levies through permits if both ministries work together.”
Mr Al Khozaie said he supported the move to licence hotels to serve sheesha – adding that the existing unorganised situation was “ridiculous”.
“Restaurants and cafés in hotels should be divided into smoking and non-smoking areas, at the moment because of this saga on the issue of licensing, visiting families are dining in the middle of smokers and that’s wrong,” he said.
“We are working in partnership with both ministries to resolve the matter as we work towards attracting tourism and at the same regulating smoking.”
He added that negotiation meetings were still ongoing on how to properly implement the initiative.