Police clarification on bar operating hours after Uhuru lifts curfew


Revellers at a Nairobi entertainment joint. [File, Standard]


President Uhuru Kenyatta in his Mashujaa Day address to the nation today lifted the 10pm-4am curfew, which has been in effect since March 27, 2020.

He, however, remained silent on the operating hours of bars and nightclubs.

Until today, bars and nightclubs nationwide have been operating from 5pm to 9pm daily in compliance with Covid-19 containment measures.

As soon as Uhuru announced the immediate lifting of the curfew, Kenyans took to social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to celebrate, with a section thanking the President for “opening the liquor taps without the Covid-19 era prohibitive restrictions by the Government”.

The Head of State said the decision to discontinue the curfew was reached after consulting members of the Covid-19 National Emergency Response Committee and the National Security Council, who advised him that the virus infection rate had reduced significantly, allowing the easing of containment measures.

The Standard reached multiple Government sources for clarification on the operating hours of bars after the President’s speech remained silent on the matter.

Spokesperson of the National Police Service Bruno Shioso told The Standard that the lifting of the dusk-to-dawn curfew essentially means “bars and other entertainment joints of a similar kind can operate outside the earlier stipulated time restrictions”.

“The time limit placed on bar operating hours was because the [dusk-to-dawn] curfew was in place. Now that that restriction has been lifted, it essentially means bar operating hours revert to pre-curfew times – 5pm to 11pm on weekdays and 2pm to 11pm on weekends,” said Shioso.

The police spokesperson, however, said that that was his interpretation of the President’s speech, but “would seek further direction from my seniors”.

A senior police officer in Central region, who spoke to The Standard in confidence, echoed remarks by Shioso, saying: “The lifting of the curfew simply means people are free to move at night, though within legal environments”.

“How would police separate a person moving to the church, from that one who is moving to the bar at night? Bars are lawful premises. So long as law and order are maintained in those premises, we, as police, have no business arresting people who have not flouted any law,” said the senior police boss in Central Kenya.

A senior official at the Ministry of Interior, who also spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, was in agreement with Shioso’s school of thought – that bars would be allowed to operate between 5pm-11pm on weekdays and 2pm and 11pm on weekends.

“Now that the curfew has been lifted, that means bars would be regulated by other agencies such as the licensing and county liquor directorates. In my understanding, police would only move in to ensure that law and order prevails, but not to effect the closure of the entertainment joints by 9pm as was the case before,” said the senior Interior ministry staffer.

According to him, the one-hour cap – between 9pm and 10pm – was essential to allow revellers to travel home and beat the 10pm curfew cut-off hour.

“However, the entertainment spots must ensure they adhere to other Covid-19 containment measures,” added the well-placed source at the Interior ministry.

The Bar Hotels Liquor Traders Association (BAHLITA) has welcomed President Uhuru’s directive lifting the curfew, which has been in place for 19 months.

BAHLITA Secretary-General Boniface Gachoka urged members of the association to continue embracing Covid-19 safety measures, “even in the absence of the curfew”.

“I wish to thank President Kenyatta for lifting the curfew. This allows bar and hotel proprietors to gradually resume normal operations,” he said.

Gachoka said his understanding of the Head of State’s announcement was that bars and hotels would be allowed to operate as they did in the pre-Covid-19 days.

“The only measures to be observed in bars and hotels are social distancing and wearing of face masks,” he said.

Not all bars operate between 2pm-or-5pm and 11pm; there are those that have licenses to operate overnight in their respective regions of operation.

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