Alcohol beverage manufacturers have asked county governments to be considerate as they implement measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Kenya and avoid actions that would result in a bigger economic impact than anticipated.
In a letter to Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, the Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) asked the devolved governments to uphold fair administrative action when implementing directives.
ABAK chairman Gordon Mutugi said that while the industry supports the limits on public gatherings to limit the spread of the virus, the decision by 16 county governments to ban the operations of bars and entertainment spots was unwarranted. About 9,615 outlets have been affected by the actions taken by county governments in the 16 counties.
“Events related to the pandemic are unfolding at an unprecedented speed, with heavy economic losses experienced across various sectors of the economy. The alcoholic beverage sector currently supports more than two million livelihoods, who directly depend on the alcoholic beverage value chain for their daily upkeep. Closure of bars disrupts value chains, deepening the negative impact of the pandemic to the economy,” said Mr. Mutugi.
ABAK asked the devolved governments to consider the fact that the businesses are still obligated to meet their obligations in terms of licensing, loan repayments, salaries, rent and leases, and the responsibilities of taking care of their families.
“Bars employ over 250,000 people who in most cases earn a daily wage. Closing them will render these people jobless, jeopardise their support for over 2 million livelihoods and directly lead to social unrest. Ultimately this could potentially result in social anarchy including looting, muggings, violent robberies, as has already been witnessed in other parts of the world,” Mr. Mutugi warned.
Most bars are in the category of Small and Medium Enterprises and are mostly owned and operated by women, and employ thousands of youth. Closing them indiscriminately would also push drinkers in the direction of illicit alcohol, which would compound the problem.
ABAK asked the Council of Governors to: encourage good hygiene and social distancing at all public spaces, allow alcohol sales for responsible consumption at home and safeguard communities from the menace of illicit alcohol and avoid outlawing legitimate business communities who are part of the economy that is suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
The association also asked the county governments to implement the advisory published by Makueni, Machakos and Vihiga counties, where licensed outlets have been allowed to strictly operate between 5pm and 11pm. Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has also asked bars to operate within the set hours and as per the guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
So far, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho has ordered that all night clubs in the town be closed with immediate effect as a measure to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Joho announced that the bars and restaurants in the town will operate until 11pm for the next 30 days to help in the fight against the spread of the disease in the county. During their operation, they will not play loud music.
Governor Joho said the directive is in line with the national government's move to stop the spread of the COVID-19.
At least three counties in Mt Kenya region have ordered closure of all pubs and night clubs over the coronavirus fears.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has suspended market days, ordered the closure of night clubs, discos and recreational facilities, including Nteere Park and all stadiums.
He said the move was geared towards eliminating crowding in public places as a means to control spread of the deadly virus.
Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria was the first to order the night clubs and bars closed, although a spot check showed the order was being ignored across the county.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Mumbi also issued a similar directive yesterday, alongside a raft of measures to contain the spread of covid-19, among them closing all bars and liquor selling places for the next 30 days.