The new decision came into effect from February 1. “From February 1, all coffee shops across the country have to pay RO5 per square metre per month. Earlier, these coffee shops were paying RO1 per square metre per year for outdoor seating. The rate hikes have been introduced after a long time. Since 2003, it was RO1 per square metre per year,” a Muscat Municipality official said.
The official said that the new decision is being implemented by the Ministry of Finance. “It is not a decision that is being implemented in Muscat only.” He said that most of the coffee shops have limited indoor seating area and they place tables and chairs outside in public area to accommodate. “So if you are using public space, you have to pay for it. It has been more than a decade since the rates were increased,” the official said.
The new decision has got many coffee shops to remove their outdoor seating arrangements in public space. A coffee shop owner in Ruwi said, “The hike is huge. I had three tables and was paying RO10 per square metre a year. Now, the present decision will cost me RO60 per month which works around RO720 per year.
“Margins in this business are very less between 10bz and 20bz. We have four staff. We have to pay their salaries, undertake other expenses. We used to keep chairs and table outside so that customers could sit and enjoy their food. After this new rule we have removed all chairs and tables and now they have to stand and eat.”
The municipality official said, “The decision has been taken after reviewing all aspects.” Another coffee shop owner said, “The new rates are quite high. But since customers are important, we will continue to have outdoor seating, as we have only a small indoor seating area which is filled to capacity most of the times.”