Most eateries are looking forward to a smoking ban, believing it will attract more families. Cafes, however, are nervous about losing customers.
Smoking indoors or out, you can't please everyone
ABU DHABI // Owners and managers of restaurants, bars and cafes in the capital have not been given a start date for a proposed indoor smoking ban.
Most, however, hope it will be sooner rather than later.
Bruno Dubreuil, the manager of Le Brioche outlets and the franchise's executive chef, is all for a smoking ban in his restaurants and cafes.
"I believe it will attract more families with their children, especially families that try to sit far from the smokers, and although business will drop at first, I think that with a complete ban on smoking, we will get more business in the long term," Mr Dubreuil said.
Last year, Marina Mall banned smoking in all food and beverage outlets and, as a result, the Le Brioche branch there received complaints from customers.
"Most of the complaints came from Arab customers and local customers," Mr Dubreuil said. "But it is so much better for all: for customers, for our staff, for the fresh food we have that might be indirectly affected by second-hand smoke."
Abu Dhabi Mall also banned smoking for a limited period last year, and Sherry Galaites, supervisor at Mugg and Bean, said sales dropped significantly.
"We lost customers, yet at the same time, non-smokers were really happy. You can't please everyone," she said.
The Mugg and Bean in Spinney's Khalidiya is redecorating, and planning to have a glassed-off smoking area, to prevent second-hand smoke in its non-smoking section.
Andy Cumpsty, bar manager for Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, said Heroes, the hotel's basement bar, would not lose its clientele if smoking is banned indoors. People will learn to adapt, he said.
"We're not just a place where people smoke; we have great food, great entertainment, quiz nights, sports nights, comedy nights ... people will come for all those things."
Tarek Kanaan, owner of Cafe Alfredo Middle East, says that smoking restrictions will have a bigger impact on cafes.
"When you go to a coffee shop, it's not mainly to eat food. It's to have a relaxing moment, with whatever you choose to accompany you. Whether it's a newspaper or a magazine or a book or a cigarette or cigar or even pipe with your coffee," he said.
Coffee-shop clientele, who are mostly Arab expatriates and Emiratis, tend to be smokers, he said.
"It feels like smoking is much more ingrained in Abu Dhabi than it is in Dubai," said Mr Kanaan. "There is a bigger western population in Dubai, who do not smoke as much, and there are more Arabs and Emiratis in Abu Dhabi, who smoke a lot more."
What the government needs to do, he said, is consider everyone's livelihood.
"Certainly, smoking is bad for health, but it is also a matter of personal choice and you have to create a space for those people who want to continue with the habit, without cutting off the main source of income for people who have a livelihood they depend on," he said.
"A middle ground has to be found."