x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi businesses have 3 months to change signboards or face fines

Thousands of businesses across the capital have three months to modify their exterior signage in line with regulations issued by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

Shop owners have been given a three-month amnesty to complete the required changes to their signs to conform to a new standard starting in Abu Dhabi on July 1 this year. Sammy Dallal / The National
Shop owners have been given a three-month amnesty to complete the required changes to their signs to conform to a new standard starting in Abu Dhabi on July 1 this year. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // Black, with bright red lettering, the new sign for the restaurant looks good, said the owner - but it came at a price.

"It was Dh6,500. Too much," he said, gesturing with his hands. "But I had to change it."

Next door, a shisha cafe had just begun the process of replacing its sign, which jutted out over the entrance. "The owner has already ordered a new sign, for Dh4,000," said an employee.

These businesses were several of thousands across the capital - from laundries to restaurants and groceries - that have to modify their exterior signage in line with regulations issued by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

The regulations were introduced last April and, so far, about 60 per cent of commercial business owners have made the modifications, said Amer Al Hammadi, the executive director of planning and infrastructure for UPC.

He expected it to be 95 per cent by the end-of-July compliance deadline, after a three-month amnesty, which began this month.

"We think it's more than enough, to allow everybody to take the necessary action in order to obey or follow the new instructions," Mr Al Hammadi said yesterday.

"When someone renews his registration, he has three months to change his signboard," said Mohammed Rashid Al Rumaitha, the acting director of the business centre at the Department of Economic Development (DeD).

If a shop failed to do this or there was an error on the sign or the trade name was different from the licence, fines ranging from Dh1,000 to Dh6,000 could be imposed.

"The problem is, you need them to move quickly," said Mr Al Rumaitha.

"It is not our vision to look for penalties but we need to let them remember when the deadline is.

"In the end, they have to come to renew their licence. They cannot renew it without changing their signboard."

The signage regulations are already included in the Baqala project, to upgrade and homogenise all grocery stores.

The regulations, which were released in a brochure from the UCP and the DeD last year, define the type, size and position of signs on areas such as shopfronts, parapets, mezzanines, building facades and building-top signage zones.

The new signs would have a positive effect on several groups within the city, said Mr Al Hammadi.

"We have many categories within the community," he said.

"We have residents, stakeholders, government agencies, the workshops and the owners of these businesses.

"The new policies enable and enforce the beauty of the city and it's one step in achieving our vision, which is making a liveable and beautiful city."

Government agencies were also behind the initiative, which has seen about 20,000 inspections, resulting in 3,150 offences and notifications being handed out.

"It is not so expensive changing this sign, I would say it is minimal cost," said Mr Al Hammadi.

"Some of them, I would say the mature owners, would be happy about this step because they know that it's going to enhance their business.

"There are some unhappy customers - we should admit that. By the end of the day, no matter what you do, you won't satisfy all stakeholders."

For some owners, such as Iftakhar Ahmed, the change has been good.

"It's better," said the expatriate, who owns a salon in Khalidiyah. "It's good they do the change. I need the change."

Although his sign is yet to be replaced, Mr Ahmed has been in touch with a company that has offered to do it for Dh6,000. The plan is to establish the new sign within the grace period.

But there has been confusion among shop owners about what price to pay, he said. "Mine is Dh6,000 but this one [pointing to the shop next door] is Dh12,000.

"It's the same sign. I don't know. But it's a good idea, generally."

zalhassani@thenational.ae