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VIDEO: Five-decade-old landmark coffee shop gets lifeline

Bahrain News
Mon, 06 Aug 2018
By Raji Unnikrishnan Pictures: Hawra Marhoon
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FIVE possible locations inside the old Manama Suq have been identified for a popular traditional cafeteria, which was closed down last week because the building that housed it was deemed unsafe.

The Capital Trustees Authority issued a closure notice for the five-storey building housing the landmark Abdulqader Coffee Shop on Thursday, stating that it needed urgent maintenance.

The coffee shop is almost five decades old and is run by three elderly Bahraini brothers – Abdulqader Amin, Abdulla Amin and Saleh Amin.

They and other retailers who occupied space in the premises have now been ordered to find an alternative space.

The cafe has been given the pick of five locations identified by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca), according to Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Manama Old Suq Committee vice-president Mahmoud Al Namlaiti.

The locations include two already operating traditional cafes (one belonging to Mr Al Namlaiti himself), one mattress shop which the owner is ready to lease out and two empty spaces with ready-to-use furniture and kitchen equipment.

However, the café owners say the proposed locations are hard to access for customers and the rent is too high.

“There are five locations, identified by Baca, offered to the men to relocate to,” Mr Al Namlaiti told the GDN.

“The agreement is that the owners of these places, including myself, lease it out to Baca and the rent be shared between Baca and the cafe owners.

“But they are not willing to accept this, as they say these are not accessible for customers.”

On Thursday Baca president Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa met the owners of the café, along with Mr Al Namlaiti.

“I am glad that Shaikha Mai has taken the initiative to help the brothers, as well as (Industry, Commerce and Tourism) Minister Zayed Alzayani (who visited them on Saturday) to reassure them – we hope to find a solution soon,” he added.

Shaikh Hisham bin Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, whose family owns the building, reiterated his priority was safety.

“Now in the current scenario we have no other option but to go in for a complete refurbishment, for which the building needed to be fully evacuated, including the café,” he said.

“There are no tenants living in the building, it was just the cafe and some retailers on the ground floor who were evacuated.

“Our priority is the safety of people in Manama, as there were incidents when people were injured with pieces of buildings falling down, which we don’t want to happen.”

The building entrance and a room on the ground floor were being used as the kitchen of the café, while food was served to customers on traditional seating arranged on either side of an alleyway called Road 405.

“We have been here for almost 50 years and any other option will not be a solution that is equal to this location,” said 67-year-old Abdulla Amin, the second of the three brothers.

“However, we are open to solutions. If they match the current location, we are open to negotiations.

“A mattress shop that was shown to us was next to the current location, but much smaller in size, while the other locations are all away from the main road with limited accessibility.

“The existing cafes are also small for around 600 customers daily – citizens, residents and tourists.

“At the existing cafes we cannot afford to offer the price that we used to offer – our tea was 50 fils and a breakfast platter will not be more than 500 fils.”

The coffee shop, famous for its distinctive teas and light snacks, has been a hub for people of all ages to gather and socialise. People took to social media after the café was shut down, calling on the government to provide it financial support as part of efforts to preserve historic sites.

“This cafeteria is not just a business for us, this is a family for us where people gather not only to eat, but to share their joy and sorrow,” said 60-year-old Saleh Amin, the youngest of the three brothers.

“People gather here for Friday prayers and even when someone dies people from all over Bahrain gather here, to share and talk.

“Not only Bahraini families, even others enjoy the traditional food – many tourists have taken videos and pictures of the place to showcase the traditional face of Bahrain.

“I hope the authorities understand our emotions and help us.”

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