x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Cafes abiding by Abu Dhabi shopping mall smoking ban

The National visited all 41 coffee shops and cafes in three of the most popular malls in the capital - Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Al Wahda Mall.

No smoking signs remind shoppers not to light up at Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi, but some still try their luck in the cafes. Ravindranath K / The National
No smoking signs remind shoppers not to light up at Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi, but some still try their luck in the cafes. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The smoking ban for all cafes and restaurants in shopping malls has finally caught on, a year after it was introduced.

A visit to all 41 coffee shops in three of the capital’s busiest shopping centres – Marina, Abu Dhabi and Al Wahda malls – showed all but one were enforcing strict anti-tobacco rules brought in last July.

At the Tea Lounge Cafe in a quiet area of Marina Mall, a waiter pointed towards a corner when asked if smoking was allowed, saying: “You can smoke there but try not to let the security guard see … smoking is not allowed.”

Khalifa Al Rumaithi, director of public health at the municipality, said: “The ban has been very effective. Most cafes have stopped allowing smoking.”

Reluctance to enforce the ban for fear of a drop in clientele lessened when the municipality began issuing fines. But many cafes say takings have suffered.

However, Mohammed Mahdi, the Iranian manager of Lips cafe at Marina Mall, said it had led to an increase in customers and profits.

“Before the smokers would come and stay a long time,” he said. “But the families would not come because of the smoke. Now a lot of families come.”

All 14 cafes at Al Wahda Mall said smoking was forbidden. Costa supervisor Joy Bersaimin, 30, said she had noticed fewer customers as a result.

“It has definitely decreased, by about 10 to 20 per cent at least,” Ms Bersaimin said. “People still come here and ask where they can smoke. When they learn they cannot smoke here they go somewhere they can.”

Basel Jabbour, 28, assistant manger of Barista espresso, said he initially noticed a 40 per cent drop in sales.

Ala Belayo, 26, the supervisor at Bloomsbury, said despite prominent no-smoking signs, some customers still try to light up.

“Some try and smoke here but we immediately report them to the mall management,” Ms Belayo said.

The smoking ban was also widely enforced at Marina Mall’s 17 coffee shops.

Papa Roti supervisor Ahmed Farouk, 28, said smokers used to comprise between 60 and 70 per cent of his customers. The cafe has an outdoor smoking area but many people are put off by the heat and would prefer a shisha cafe on the Corniche, Mr Farouk said.

“You take away the smoking and of course you are going to lose business,” he said, adding that takings had dropped by about 40 per cent.

Cinnamon City opened an outdoor smoking section when the ban came into place, while at Cafe De la Paix, a waiter said smokers were allowed to use the fire exit at the rear of the cafe.

At Abu Dhabi Mall, all 10 coffee shops enforced a strict no-smoking policy.

Diane Manzon, 31, the supervisor of Eric Kayser cafe, has noticed a 30 per cent decline in profits.

“As you can see, it is a lot quieter,” Ms Manzon said.

Jacquel Wachina, who looks after Cafe Nero, said the cafe had always operated a no-smoking policy and welcomed the ban.

“It is better now that all cafes do the same,” she said. “We used to get customers complaining about the smoke from other coffee shops.”

All Abu Dhabi Mall cafes recently received a letter from the management reminding them of the smoking ban, Ms Wachina said.

Mugg and Bean’s Jonathan Gerodias, 41, also received the memo.

“I am not sure what the fine is – maybe about Dh3,000,” he said. “I think some cafes may still allow it but they face their own risk. We don’t take that chance.”

jbell@thenational.ae