The murder of a café patron in Heliopolis has led to the closure of dozens of other cafés in Cairo and Giza.
On the night of the Africa Cup of Nations final, on Sunday 5 February Mahmoud Bayoumi was knifed in the café Keif. He died as a result of a puncture wound in the lung after staff members from the café assaulted him when a dispute erupted over the bill’s minimum charge. According to eyewitnesses, the restaurant’s waiters and manager threatened customers and locked them inside the café following the game between Egypt and Cameroon.
Two suspects in the killing had their detention renewed pending a 15-day investigation. Meanwhile, Keif was sealed off and police cars parked outside it. In response to the murder the governorate shut down several unlicensed cafés in Cairo’s Nozha district in addition to several neighbourhoods in Greater Cairo.
The cafés were reportedly operating without proper licences as well as breaching their designated parameters.
“No one is above the law and the closure of the cafés and restaurants in the neighbourhoods of Nasr City, Heliopolis and Nozha came within the framework of the law which stipulates the closure of cafés operating without the necessary licences from the district administration,” Atef Abdel-Hamid, governor of Cairo, said.
“Such cafés and restaurants transformed residential areas and garages into commercial activities in violation of the law, impeded sidewalks, caused environmental pollution and were an inconvenience to the residents of these buildings,” Abdel-Hamid added.
He stressed that the governorate would not allow the reopening of the cafés. “We will sue the owners of these cafés if they re-open them. Law No 72/2017 stipulates a fine of not less than LE5,000 and not more than LE10,000 in addition to imprisonment of no more than six months,” the governor said.
Khaled Mustafa, Cairo governorate’s media spokesman, said most downtown cafés are not licensed after former Cairo governor Abdel-Rahim Shehata stopped issuing licences around 10 years ago.
Saber Ibrahim, head of the Heliopolis neighbourhood, said the campaign to close unlicensed cafés would continue during the coming days under orders of the Cairo governor.
The campaign extended to other districts in Cairo, including Maadi and downtown and reached Giza governorate where in just one day, 49 unlicensed cafés were closed.
Alaa Heras, deputy governor of Giza, said in an interview with CBC satellite channel that the campaign in Giza was not related to the murder in Heliopolis. “We launch such campaigns from time to time. There is coordination among district administrations, civil defence, police and tourism police,” Heras said.
Owners of cafés that were closed down said the operation involved the destruction of the restaurants’ façade and kitchen equipment. They told the press they were licensed by the Tourism Ministry.
“What is happening to us is illegal,” an owner of a since closed café in Heliopolis told Al-Ahram Weekly. “The law doesn’t stipulate the destruction and demolishing of the façade and the café’s facilities. They should instead inform me of my violations and impose a fine,” he said.
“We have a tourism licence from the Chamber of Tourist Facilities to operate a café and restaurant but the district’s administration is not interested. In fact, the destruction of cafés is bullying,” he added.
Ibrahim said the smashing of façades of cafés and restaurants during the campaign was because of a lack of licences for façades. “These façades represent encroachments on the sidewalk and entrances of residential buildings. It was necessary to stand firmly against such violations to restore the sites,” Ibrahim said.
The public has criticised the minimum charge policy that many restaurants and cafés adopt. Amid increasing complaints of the practice the Consumer Protection Agency urged people to report any restaurant imposing a minimum charge because it is illegal. They can call hotline 19588.