Qatar’s corner stores granted extension to operate through 2016

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In a welcome move, neighborhood grocery stores, barber shops and other small businesses in residential areas around Qatar will now be permitted to extend their operating licenses for another three years, the Cabinet has decided.

This is the second extension that the 7,000+ baqalas, which employ some 10,000 people, have been granted by the government in the past year.

Last August, the fate of these shops seemed uncertain, after the Ministry of Business and Trade recommended that the licenses of neighborhood convenience stores not be renewed beyond Sept. 15, 2012.

But widespread support for the shops, including among Central Municipal Council members, prompted the government to announce in May an extension through July 2014.

The goal was to allow Qatar enough time to relocate these stores into purpose-built “commercial complexes” in each residential area.

Acknowledging that setting up these complexes will take time, the baqalas have now been granted a further extension to operate at least until the fall of 2016. QNA reports:

It is permissible to renew these licenses annually until the end of 2016 in view of the unavailability of alternative shops to practise their activities in the current period in addition to the high rental value of such shops outside those areas.

Neighborhood shops are popular because they are open at convenient times, are within walking distance and also offer home delivery.

The Emir granted licenses to the owners of these stores – among them Qatari widows, divorcees and many poor families – years ago. The move was designed to stimulate the economy by helping those on low incomes.

Such shops have been disappearing in recent years, in part due to construction and to a decline in business after the 2011 “bachelor” ban on low-income single men, who were moved out of the city and into the Industrial Area.

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Credit: Photo by Richard Messenger

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