By Victoria Scott
Owners and workers at thousands of neighborhood stores in Qatar will now be able to renew their licenses annually until at least 2019.
The fate of such conveniently located shops, known as baqalas, has been uncertain for more than four years.
Since 2012, Qatar’s business ministry has been pushing for the licenses of local barber shops, grocery stores and other small businesses in residential areas not to be renewed.
It wanted to remove the shops — which operate on licenses gifted by the Emir years ago to Qatari widows, divorcees and nationals in low-income brackets — from residential areas because it believed that they violated zoning laws.
In response, the Central Municipal Council said it wanted the stores to be relocated into commercial complexes within residential areas.
The government agreed, and it has since announced a series of extensions to baqala licenses to allow the so-called Commercial Zones to be built.
However, despite announcing plans in 2013 to open nine Commercial Zones around Doha, thousands of stores remain in their original locations.
A three-year stay of execution for the stores was granted by the government in September 2013.
It had been due to expire this month, but a new three-year extension has just been approved by Cabinet.
This gives the owners and thousands of workers employed in these stores some security as they wait to see whether they will be moved to new locations in the coming years.
Neighborhood shops are popular among residents because they are open at convenient times, are within walking distance and also offer home delivery.