x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Football fans' exodus brings reversal of cafe opening times

Ajman Municipality is now allowing some cafes to open until 2am after owners complain they were losing customers who wanted to watch late-night European matches.

AJMAN // A rule that forced cafes to close at midnight has been partially overturned after football-mad customers deserted the establishments to view the matches in other emirates. Ajman Municipality is now allowing some cafes to open until 2am after owners said they were losing customers who wanted to watch late-night European matches.

Abu Hamza, the owner of Zaman al Layali cafe on Corniche Road, said the move would allow his business to return to normal, particularly when big matches were being played. "Our business is about showing the matches," he said. "People come to us mostly to watch football and most big matches are in the night, so if you stop us from showing them late it is like pushing us outside the business." But the change has not pleased everyone.

One local resident, Mutawakil Ahmed, a father of two, was worried about late-night disruption. "It's very hard to enforce discipline at night among the cafe-goers. If one's team scores would you stop him from shouting in celebration?" Majid al Suwaidi, the municipality's head of commercial inspection, said most of the cafes that showed European games had lobbied hard for their opening hours to be re-extended.

Some owners had complained that, because of the midnight rule, customers were going to cafes in other emirates to smoke shisha and watch the matches, he said. Mr al Suwaidi added that cafes needed licences to open late, and that the municipality would consider their location when considering their requests. "All those allowed to work late at night have to prove they will not disturb the peace of the residents with noise," he said.

"They must supply shisha to their customers only within their cafes and not outside or in shades. They should also not deliver to customer vehicles or homes." The midnight rule extends to shisha, games and internet cafes, where private booths are now banned. Youngsters under 18 are not allowed in internet cafes unless accompanied by a parent. Mohammed al Marzouqi, the director of the licensing section, said about 30 cafes had been fined for violating the midnight rule since it was introduced in April.

Khalid al Hosni, the director of the health and environment department, noted that cafes had to meet health and environmental standards to be granted an operating licence. Their kitchens must be equipped with stainless steel wash basins and counters and a fridge, and the seating area must have adequate ventilation and lighting. ykakande@thenational.ae