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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Halal certification bad for business, says Sabah seafood restaurant owners

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah’s seafood sellers are unlikely to heed the call from the Sabah Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JHEAINS) to apply for halal certification, with most of them claiming it would not be feasible because it would mean losing out on business by not serving alcohol.

With fresh seafood being one of the state’s attractions, some seafood restaurants have said it does not want to lose out on potential tourist dollars or any side income it may get from selling alcohol and cigarettes.

“I don’t think it is necessary to get halal certified yet. We are a pork-free restaurant and that seems to be good enough for our customers. Muslim customers do not seem to mind, they are used to it in Sabah. Even Muslim tourists seem to understand this,” said the captain of Seremban Seafood Restaurant and Bar in the city centre, who only wanted to be known as Jason.

“As long as they don’t make it a requirement, I think we will just wait and see for now. I know that we won’t be able to get the certificate anyway because we serve alcohol,” he said.

JHEAINS had recently advised owners of premises selling seafood and seafood products to seek halal certification following the growing public awareness of halal issues.

The process of inspection and issuance of the halal certificate will take about 30 to 45 days at a fee of RM200.

Another popular outlet, Welcome Seafood Restaurant, appeals to Muslims by having a separate kitchen that did not serve pork and specified green tables which its Muslim clientele may feel more comfortable dining in.

“It is not halal, but there is no pork. It is 100 per cent seafood only. Food comes from a different main kitchen, and cutleries and plates are our own, otherwise everything else ― the menu, the prices, and the fact that we serve beer ― is the same,” said a spokesperson.

“We want to appeal to as many people as possible,  not just a certain segment of the market. I think this is a purely business decision,” he said, adding that the income from serving beer can make up the difference from the increasingly taxed business.

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