Several restaurants at Katara Cultural Village say their businesses have taken a nosedive following a ban on serving shisha in public areas that management enacted in January.
While two eateries continue offering the service, albeit in a limited fashion, one restaurant has been told to take shisha entirely off the menu.
Since then, “our sales (have been) down by around 40 to 50 percent,” a supervisor at Armenian-Lebanese restaurant Mamig told Doha News today.
The representative added that the new rules were hurting the atmosphere of the restaurants and the area, where young people often go after a busy day to unwind, smoke and chat.
Late last year, Katara Cultural Village management announced they would be banning shisha smoking in public across its restaurants and cafes for health reasons.
The decision came amid a push from doctors and authorities in Qatar and across the Gulf to limit the public’s consumption of shisha, which is considered by many in the Arab world as a cultural pastime, rather than a bad habit.
According to a recent report, smoking rates are on the rise in Qatar. Some 12 percent of the country’s population aged 15 and above said they currently smoke tobacco. That’s up from 10 percent in 2013, the latest Global Adult Tobacco Study found.
Included in that report is what is believed to be the the first available figures on shisha smoking in Qatar. Nearly 3.4 percent of adults said they are current shisha smokers. That includes 4.9 percent of men and 1.6 percent of women.
While some perceive shisha-smoking to be less harmful than cigarettes, studies have shown that’s not the case.
Some health researchers say a shisha smoker will inhale more tobacco than a cigarette smoker in one puff. Doctors in Doha have also said shisha could be 10 times worse than smoking cigarettes.
While shisha has been completely banned in Mamig, other restaurants and cafes in Katara that offer shisha have found ways of continuing to offer it on their menus.
For example, Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge has restricted the shisha service to tents set up facing the beach.
But customers have to rent the tent at a high cost, which has driven away some of the restaurant’s regulars.
”Some of the customers find the prices too expensive or the waiting list too long and they head to Khan Farouk,” an employee at the restaurant told Doha News.
Renting a tent ranges from QR500 for a majilis to QR2,000 for a “closed” tent that includes air-conditioning, a television and sofas.
On a more positive note, the employee said that the restaurant has won over some customers who are attracted to the now more child-friendly, “non-shisha” restaurant.
At Khan Farouk Tarab Café, an employee told Doha News that they also are seeing less customers, despite converting the designated family area inside the restaurant into a shisha smoking area.
“We still have a long waiting list of people wanting to sit in the shisha area almost every night and sometimes they get tired and leave,” he said. “Around 80 percent of our customers smoke shisha.”
While smoking cigarettes and shisha in most closed spaces is illegal in Qatar, enforcement of the law is lax, and many people are regularly observed to be smoking inside hotels, malls, restaurants and cafes.
However, the employee at Khan Farouk argued that they are abiding by the law because the room is not a closed area. “There’s a back door to the shisha area, that we keep open to let the smoke out,” he said.
For its part, the Mamig manager said that the restaurant’s request to dedicate a few indoor tables for smoking shisha was denied.
The restaurant used to reserve the upper floor and outside area to smokers only, away from non-smoker customers.
Attempts to ban shisha
For the past several months, authorities have discussed a stricter anti-smoking law, but there appears to have been little tangible progress.
The law, which has been under discussion for several years, would raise fines on shops caught selling tobacco to minors and give malls the power to fine those found smoking on their premises, among other measures.
Meanwhile, attempts to restrict where shisha can be smoked have produced mixed results at best.
For example, in 2013, restaurants and cafes in the Souq Waqif were told to stop serving shisha indoors and to divide their outdoor premises into smoking and non-smoking areas.
But the rule was quickly retracted after managers of shisha-serving outlets complained that queues of people were waiting to smoke in the designated section while non-smoking tables remained empty.
Meanwhile, back in Katara, there are no signs that the rules will be eased anytime soon, even though one restauranteur said the operators of the cultural village seem aware of its impact on businesses in the area.
“Some people in management come here to smoke shisha themselves and see firsthand how much our business has gone down, but that has not changed anything,” a Khan Farouq employee said.
Any business built on shisha, cigarettes, alcohol or drugs is a bad business. Make good food and price it reasonably and people will come. Period.
Bad financially or bad morally? because all those listed are very good for making money (or so I’ve heard).
The food is good in Katara but it’s also good in many other places where they also allow shisha so we just end up going to the other places because it’s simpler to go to one restaurant that has it all.
Morally and ethically. I wouldn’t make money from selling unhealthy crap to people, and I approve the governemnt’s crackdown on such businesses, at least to some extent.
You and me can lead the charge to shut down all the Baskin Robbins outlets for selling crap. And Dunkin Donuts. And Krispy Kreme. Heck, let’s get rid of Macdonalds too, and Pizza Hut, and all those other obesity inducing franchises that are wreaking havoc with Qatar’s collective waistline.
That is less harmful than the intoxicants
Seriously? You honestly believe that?
Honestly, you still ‘believe’ in statistics?
Smoking is far more harmful than alcohol. Please research about this and youll see.
I’ve eaten the food at Sukar Pasha and Khan Farouk dozens of times, and can’t really say a bad word about it. But on almost every occasion the intention was to go to the restaurant for sheesha and a meal, not vice versa.
Speaking personally, I don’t think the quality of the food, as good as it may be, at either of those places is enough to outweigh the cons (the traffic, parking, roadworks, and now the absence of sheesha) to encourage me to return.
I’m certain there will be others who don’t care if there is sheesha or not, and yet more people who will be more likely to eat there now that sheesha is off the menu. Only time will tell. But it must be admitted that the restaurants will struggle to make the same amount of profit on preparing and serving food without sheesha. Sheesha is almost a license for a business to print money – it takes no more than 5 minutes to prepare, 1 minute to bring to the table, another minute to place the coals and then a return trip 2 or 3 times an hour to refresh them. And for that they can charge over 100 riyals.
There isn’t a menu item that either restaurant will be able to serve that will keep the riyals rolling in like sheesha. So we can expect that either the food prices will go up, or the food quality will go down, because I’m pretty sure they won’t now be getting a discount in their rent and utility costs.
I hope you’re not inferring the same opinion of the nutjobs in Europe and the USA who are banning hookah bars because they think they ‘promote crime’. I don’t even see how anyone could propose such a thing. Smoking shisha is a historic element of Middle Eastern culture, and it is absurd to suggest it is immoral and ban it, no less in an establishment with the aim of promoting cultural awareness. Small, privately owned businesses are experiencing hefty losses because of this misguided morality crusade.
Slavery at some point was a historic element of Middle Eastern culture. Yet it had to be stopped because it is immoral. Gat drugs are a historic element of the culture of the Gulf region, yet they are banned everywhere (except in Yemen).
It is not because lots of people consume something that the governemnt must not legislate about it. The governemnt has the duty to organize and regulate everything including things that people like and consume regularly.
It’s not a historic element of the culture of the Gulf region. It is part of Yemen’s culture.
Clearly, the government has the duty and right to legislate, but it also carries the responsibility to evaluate whether legislation is required. I can’t think of a single reason for strict regulation of shisha smoking which doesn’t lie on a flimsy foundation. It’s a strange decision either way, taking into consideration the extent that it has affected small businesses.
News flash…slavery has not stopped.
I am sure the owner of QDC doesn’t share your opinion 😉
if a bar stops serving alcohol and opts for good burger and fries.. Or a sheesha cafe slashes the puffery delicious smoke emitting magic device it opened its doors in the first place to offer .. And offers in return for good tabbouli and hummus.. You get a case of what I call Bad Business.. Article above case in point!
I was talking from an ethical point of view
Those restaurants really took a hit since the ban, once fully occupied places are now not near half full.
Since shisha is the most profitable item on the menu, I think Katara should give those businesses a discount on the rent.
Please don’t try to hurt their greed and ego.
Why don’t they just allocate closed up(with glass), well ventilated areas in the restaurant, called Smoking Areas.
They have this all over the rest of the world..well sort of..
Close up the smoking areas but don’t ventilate them. Let those who want to use them choke on the fumes. The more the better…
Mamig was over confident in December when they said people come to them for their over priced Lebanese food, now what happened? lol.
It’s good that they banned shisha in Katara, because they were over charging people and had bad service anyway. Unless you were wearing a thobe then they will run after you, I have noticed it many times at Khan farouk and they don’t change the water in their shishas before serving them to other customers, so why am I paying 60 riyals for it if their service is worse than a ghetto shisha place that cost me 15 riyals?
Sukar Pasha should close down because of their lies about charging 120 riyals for shisha because they bring tobbacco from USA.
Shisha is the main reason I have never been to Souq Waqif. Absolutely disgusting habit. Props to Katara for taking a bold step.
Strangely enough, Souk Waqif doesn’t revolve around Shisha. There are many other aspects to explore. Do not let your digust of Shisha prevent you from exploring this wonderful area. It really does feel like a traditional souk, albeit cleaner than most!
If you take into account the lovely restaurants hidden inside the hotels, and the ones off the beaten track, I would estimate that fewer than half the restaurants in the Souq have shisha.
The ban should be lifted, and smoking shisha or anything else (legal) contained to outside areas where the smoke can dissipate. One of my most enduring memories of life in the gulf will be the smell of shisha being smoked as I walk around katara or the souk.
I accept that this will upset the sensibilities of the moral crusaders from Europe and America, who have become paranoid about the perils of second hand smoke.
Look at it this way… I was once on Marylebone Road in London. I stopped for a coffee, and chose a table outside so I could enjoy a cigarette… I was told smoking was not allowed outside, because it was offensive to the passers by…. This is on a street with six lanes of stationary traffic pumping out Lord knows what noxious fumes…. And the same applies here. This is one of the most polluted cities in the world… Made worse this time of year by the swirling dust – most of which, by the way, is cement dust – pretty much the most dangerous substance you can inhale. That and the traffic… The exhaust smoke of poorly maintained engines… I really do not think shisha smoke is a major factor.
Of course, those of us that enjoy it, know the risks to our health. It is a risk we are prepared to take, and no worse or better than the risks people choose to take by driving badly at high speed. It is a matter of personal choice.
Sure, control it in enclosed areas to avoid forcing non smokers to be made to suffer by our choice, especially where fire is a risk aswell…. But outside? In a lovely setting enjoying what is as much a part of Arab culture as the cuisine? Why? Because us poorly educated, narrow minded smokers aren’t smart enough to make the choice for ourselves, so we should let others make it for us?
I genuinely think that there must be changes in Mindsets and approach of things to improve public health in general:
-A Pollution tests for all the vehicles that validates or not Estimara renewal?
-Dust controlled constructions environments?
-Hazardous/Volatile Waste management.
-Non Smoking in public and work places.
Why should we have a well maintained car if people around are Shisha smokers(immunized by smoke) being polluted by worst than my own car?
We all came in Qatar for the same reasons but not to pollute each others through normal or Major way: all the factors must be eliminated.
That is why government can trench and enforce laws on the more beneficial side.
Every change must start with public awareness communication: it is not a loss of freedom: the population gains…
Deem, Whilst I agree with most of your post this ban is not because of the ‘Moral crusaders from Europe and America’.
They are fighting to ban Shisha in open air restaurants while people are heavily smoking cigarettes in cafes inside malls, specially Land Mark. Someone has to do something about this, because it is very annoying.
Was in landmark this morning….2 lovely gentlemen puffing away outside Columbus. very unpleasant. I am a shisha smoker myself, but inside the mall, its not good, especially with all the kids around. As for the Landmark management and security, shame on you for letting this happen.
The mall guards let it slide because their verbal warnings have zero effect. Unfortunately, the kind of people who light up indoors when they know it’s against the rules are the kind of people who don’t give a **** when someone tells them to put it out. So the guards would rather not confront them in the first place. Cafe managers/staff also have zero guts when it comes to this.
The funny thing that mamig management said earlier that they will not be impacted by shisha ban as the restaurant concentrate more on the food quality they provide, however now they are saying they have a loss of almost 40%.
If people want to smoke poison, I mean sisha and other tobacco products they can as much as they want. …as long as they don’t smoke in front of my kids or anyone else’s kids! Kids should have the chance to grow up in a smoke free/ drug free environment until they are adults and are responsible for their own choices. It’s our job and responsibility as adults to keep the youngsters safe ☺ And I don’t really care if some restaurants want to cater to smokers only and make profit from them, but they should post signs that are clear at their entrance saying that it is a smoking facility so families with children know that before they even enter. There should also be plenty of family restaurants available for such customers. Thanks!
What, you can’t have a meal without filling your lungs up with carcinogenic smoke?
Probably for the same reason I cannot enjoy a meal without a Premier Cru Chablis. Each to their own I suppose.
Somewhere, somebody is developing the first electronic bong.
If by electronic bong you mean electronic shisha (and not something used by American frat boys to smoke drugs) then yes, you’re right. Smoke-free e-shisha is already on the market.
Thanks Qatar Government.
I am smoker and always smoke outdoor, never in my car, far away from my family.
I can’t tolerate passively smoking myself and even more cannot expose my kids lungs to any smokers environment.This is completely insane: who ever argues on the contrary has missed something. I have the strong conviction that establishments priority should be oriented to a sane family/non smokers.
While sitting in Regional restaurants the smoking clients are spoiling and polluting treats taste with artificial flavors through their dense puffed smokes.Why clients are puffing their smoke everywhere?
It is of a Hygiene issue while letting everyone being polluted by irresponsible persons in public places.
Selfish and viced Individuals should accomplish their vices at home and should not drag down innocents who didn’t ask for it.
Everyone is smart enough to acknowledge that public health cannot be jeopardized by cultural addictions.
I really cant figure out from which referential can some individuals come from while complaining about a loss of poison distribution business?
Really? Did not see that coming. At. All.