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Call to revoke service fee ban.

Bahrain: Restaurants have been accused of raising prices after being banned from imposing a service charge.

The allegation has now prompted business leaders to propose revoking the decision.

Restaurants could previously charge a service fee of up to 25 per cent, but a ban was enforced on July 10 making the practice illegal in most outlets by the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry.

Those found violating the order face legal action, including up to BD10,000 in fines, although the ban excludes so-called "tourism restaurants", which are facilities located inside hotels and within a tourism zone that will soon be determined by the ministry.

However, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) says it has been bombarded with complaints from customers about restaurants increasing prices and serving smaller portions.

This prompted the chamber's restaurants and coffee shops committee to propose the reintroduction of new service fees.

It yesterday came up with proposed new classifications for restaurants; 'Tourist-Family A', which will cover premium outlets including those serving alcohol and with live entertainment, and 'Tourist-Family B'.

"In the first category, we propose a 15pc service charge, of which 5pc is paid to the government by the restaurant," explained committee head Ahmad Subah Al Saloom.

"And in the second category the total service charge can be 10pc and the government would receive 5pc."

He said there were around 95 "tourism restaurants" currently excluded from the ban on service charges, compared with around 3,000 outlets that have not collected the fee since July 10.

"We received several complaints from customers after the service charge was scrapped that the restaurants increased their prices, reduced food quantity and even changed their menu with new prices," he added.

"The restaurants cannot indulge in gimmicks like these because they no longer can collect service charge.

"The committee has discussed the proposal during a meeting with Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Al Zayani which we feel will help the sector and protect rights of customers."

The proposal was put forward during the committee's meeting yesterday at the BCCI in Sanabis.

During the meeting, officials also discussed new guidelines to tackle around 70 sheesha cafes operating without a permit in different locations.

Meanwhile, Mr Al Saloom urged the ministry to inspect claims that several cafeterias operate as fully-fledged restaurants.

He explained that the cafeterias were not licensed to offer many of the cuisines advertised on their menus.

"For example, there are several takeaway menus offering grills, sweets and other dishes distributed in residential areas," he said.

"But when we go to one of these actual outlets, it is a cafeteria operating in a small room where all the items are prepared in bad conditions without any supervision.

"These are cafeterias offering menus like a premium restaurant and ministry inspectors should warn these violators."

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jul 27, 2016
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