Business owners in Qatar have been struggling with high business costs, forcing many to close.
Customers of a popular cafe frequented by artists and anime fans have bid farewell to the business after its announced closure, urging action from authorities to balance out high costs for entrepreneurs across the country.
Based in the affluent The Pearl area, Anime Cafe served as a hotspot for creatives in Qatar as a space to gather and indulge in art, anime, comics, gaming and more.
“The cafe was our second home. Not only for artists, but the whole Japanese animation, and gaming community. It was a place for us to gather, have big meaningful discussions, create, draw, give workshops, learn and teach other, discover talents and so much more,” Noora Al Subaey, who served as the cafe’s main artist and designed its two main characters, Kou and Hikari, told Doha News.
She confirmed that the cafe had suffered greatly because of the seemingly never-ending price increases business owners had to put up with, and like many others, it the business just wasn’t able to keep up, causing its eventual closure.
“High rents, high renewal prices, salaries, contracts, penalty terms, everything was too high and kept going higher. It was not able to keep up.”
The cafe’s announced closure shocked many, and former customers have taken to social media to denounce high prices of rent and other general operating costs that have appeared to sink various businesses over the years.
Hamad Al-Hajri, CEO of leading Qatari start-up, Snoonu, expressed his disappointment regarding the closure on Twitter, noting he often visited Anime Cafe with his children to practise drawing.
“Today I was surprised that it closed with the wave of losses of restaurants and stores, even though it is the only cafe devoted to anime and cartoon enthusiasts. Where are the relevant authorities? Or is it needed to form committees and seek the help of experts to find out the root of the economic problems?”
Are high costs killing businesses in Doha?
Citizens and residents alike seem to think so, and are urging the authorities to take action and ease the costs on businesses.
“Since the business already exists, the problem is not in the establishment and licensing procedures. The biggest problem is the high rents and operating fees that need to be covered by high prices and a large volume of sales that the local market does not provide, especially after Doha became empty and the purchasing power decreased,” said one user.
Over the last few months, the country has witnessed the closure of many small businesses. Many believe that this would not have been the case if those businesses were based in any other GCC country, especially in Dubai.
“If it was in Dubai it would have become a famous brand. Here, ideas die before they are born because the economic environment is not fertile, and its very traditional. The cost is more than the return, because there are no tourists and no events that attract tourism, even at the Gulf level,” tweeted Shaikha.
Al-Sharq cartoonist, Mohammed Abdalateef perfectly summarised the sentiments in his daily cartoon, which showed a wrestler labelled ‘rent’ unexpectedly slamming small businesses.
“No place will take Anime Cafe’s place. The owner worked with us closely as a community, losing the place and such support was extremely sad,” Al Subaey added.