New grocery stores to replace those forced to shut down will open 'in the coming days', says the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.
New grocery stores are on their way, Abu Dhabi assures residents
ABU DHABI // Hundreds of small grocery shops closed down for failure to comply with new food storage and hygiene regulations will be replaced by new ones “in the coming days”, Abu Dhabi’s food regulator promised yesterday.
The new network of retail shops will be run by companies such as Spinneys, Snacks, Adnoc Oasis, Select Express, Waitrose, Spar and others, said Ahmed Abdul Karim Al Sharaf, acting director of communication at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.
The closure of the remaining shops that do not comply with the new regulations will take place gradually, he said.
The capital’s 1,300 small groceries, or dukhan, were told in May 2011 that they had until the end of 2012 to meet the new requirements, which include automatic doors, steel roofing, CCTV, a computerised till and lower, more accessible shelves.
Those that failed to comply by December 31 were forced to close, and some owners do not expect to reopen. Some say the modernisation would cost up to Dh250,000, which they cannot afford.
The authority said some shop owners had waited until the deadline expired, and now had to close while the improvement work was carried out.
Others, it said, “closed down for good because they did not comply with the new regulations and waited futilely until the last day, hoping the time would be extended”.
The authority also said claims that the modernisation would cost Dh200,000 were incorrect. “This is totally left to the choices the shop owners make while applying the changes,” said Mr Al Sharaf.
“We do not want any inconvenience to consumers. We will try our best to make sure that consumers will not find themselves all of a sudden without the services they are used to.”
But many residents still feel they have been left hanging, forced to make long journeys to their nearest supermarket.
“I live on 27th Street, which is an area where a lot of groceries have closed,” said Deito Agravante, a Filipino resident. “I don’t have a car, so I have to take a bus to Madinat Zayed to get to Lulu’s. The whole trip takes me up to two hours.”
While he welcomed the announcement of replacement shops, he doubted they would open soon enough. “It’ll take a long time before they open,” he said. “They should have planned beforehand and informed the community.
“It was such an abrupt decision without having made the necessary preparations and it’s really shocking. How long will we have to suffer this inconvenience for?”
He said the authority should have planned immediate replacements for the shops so residents would not feel stranded. “It’s not fair on us because we have no more amenities around here,” he said. “We live in residential areas and it’ll be too expensive to move closer to larger supermarkets.”
He was not alone. Paola Lugue now has to walk two blocks to the supermarket after her local grocery in the Muroor Road area closed.
“We feel sorry for the grocery owners,” she said. “We have lived here for quite some time and have got to know them.”
She is also worried the new larger stores will be more expensive. “I like big stores but I also prefer to have small stores in the vicinity,” she said. “They should give us clear information of what’s going to happen.”
Thelma Lelis, who lives in the Madinat Zayed area, has not seen any construction work suggesting new shops are imminent, other than work on the newly refurbished Baqalas.
“It’s more comfortable if you can just call a grocery for delivery,” said the 34-year-old graphic designer, also from the Philippines.
“I don’t know if big chains will do that but I’d like to know when they will open.”
The authority insists the move will ensure shoppers receive the best services in town. “We aim to make sure the retail sector is taken to a new level of excellence,” it said.
Marwan Yassir, a 60-year-old Lebanese engineer who works in the Delma Road area and used to visit the now-closed Al Wasit grocery, thinks the new regulations will be positive in the end.
“I have no objection to the stores being replaced – it should be better,” he said.
“Eventually we are going to have a good collection of stores and this will encourage investors to open more businesses, which is to the advantage of the customer.”