Bar owners cry foul as counties deny them liquor licenses

By Standard Team | Jun 10, 2023
Boniface Gachoka, secretary general of the Bars, Hotels, Liquor traders association of Kenya, (BAHLITA) during a press conference in Nairobi. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Liquor traders in some counties have cried foul accusing authorities if refusing to renew or issue them with licenses.

In Murang'a traders operating more than 1,000 liquor outlets are up in arms after their applications to renew licenses were rejected.

They are now accusing the sub-county liquor committee of malice in denial of the licenses. Only 1,033 licenses were approved for renewal.

During a public consultation forum in Muranga Town, bar owners rejected demands to pay Sh10,000 to facilitate re-inspection of their premises by an independent committee.

Murang’a Bar Owners Association led by Simon Njoroge Jogoo and Boniface Gachoka accused the county government of denying the majority of traders licensees on flimsy grounds.

Mr Njoroge said majority of traders whose applications were rejected had met all the requirements.

Bar owners said the battle on illicit brews has lost direction with the focus shifting to reduction of outlets.

Deputy County Secretary Bernard Wanyoike was booed as the traders rejected demand for the Sh10,000 payments, vowing to proceed to court to seek justice.

They said if denied licenses, more than 200,000 jobs will be lost.

Wanyoike, who was accompanied by Murang’a East Deputy County Commissioner Thomas Nyoro, said after consultation with Governor Irungu Kang’ata, the Sh10,000 fees had been waived.

Wanyoike told the traders whose applications had been rejected that they have a seven-day window to lodge an appeal to the county government.

Traders from Maragua sub-county led by former Maragua MP Peter Kamande and Andrew Thuo called for a structured process in the licensing procedure to avoid politicians taking advantage.

Kamande said chiefs have been harassing bar owners whose applications were rejected.

"The situation is getting out of hand as administrators are being misused to settle scores,” said Kamande.

Thuo recounted how his premise in Makuyu has been under siege after it was christened Azimio base by a local politician.

“I am a victim of political intimidation as my facility was ordered closed barely 30 minutes after a local politician directed the law enforcers,” said Thuo.

In Nandi, the County Government turned down over 700 license applications for bars, wine and spirits shops in a bid to curb the drug abuse menace in the region.

Following the national government directive to fight against the illicit drugs, the county revenue department dismissed the traders who had interest in opening up bars and wine and spirits outlets in the county market centres.

In a joint operation to stem out what they said to be poisonous alcoholic drinks, Governor Stephen Sang and the County Commissioner Caroline Nzwili affirmed that legal action will be taken against persons found peddling illicit drugs.

Sang said that his administration will enforce the by-laws to ensure that the alcoholic drinks being sold in the existing restaurants and bars are safe for human consumption.

“We cannot stand watching our youths perish in the dens of poisonous alcoholic drugs. This is why we are joining hands with the county security team to crack down the culprits distributing illegal drugs. It’s our responsibility as leaders to protect the young generation against drug abuse,” he said.

The governor said that only 300 bars, wine, and spirits shops operate in the community after being certified to be selling genuine alcoholic products.

The police have netted over 200 illicit traders who were arraigned in the court and fined a tune of Sh2 million.

“The government is clear on its position against drug abuse. Anti-alcoholic operation will continue and no one will be left out until we end illicit brews in the villages,” the county commissioner stated.

While applauding the ongoing operation, the Head of public service Felix Koskei urged the security team also to investigate the culprits said to be supplying drugs to the school children in the community.

He regretted that there is a high consumption of illicit brews among the youths who are said to have forfeited the economic activities and poverty is staring upon them.

“We are heading in a long direction and youths are actively involved in deep consumption of alcoholism as they don’t want to engage in farming and business activities and this is causing our community to sink into poverty.” warned Koskei.

Speaking at Meteitei Secondary School in Nandi County, the Head of Public service warned that unless the community changed and focused on more income generating projects, they would suffer.

For the past three weeks every Monday huge number of youths and Villagers are arrested and charged in Kapsabet Court from where relatives and families struggle to pay fines.

In Taita Taveta, County commissioner Josephine Onunga has decried the widespread sale and consumption of illicit brews, and hardcore drugs including all forms of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV).

Onunga directed security agencies to intensify the war against the vices saying they have affected development but also promoted crime in the area.

“Our fight against illicit brews, hardcore drugs, and SGBV) is not enough. We need to up our game to eradicate such vices that have become a menace in the region. Women and school-going children are suffering as a result of SGBV,” noted Ms. Onunga yesterday in Taveta town.

The administrator was reacting to concerns raised by women leaders and Timbila High School students in Taveta town yesterday who complained to her that security personnel were doing little to eradicate cheap liquors which are flourishing and badly affecting the girl and boy child education.

Apart from Mbangara, other brews sold in the region include Changaa, Matingas, Nzoke, and Mnazi. Mbangara is popular among the Taita while matingas, Chang’aa, and Nzoke are commonly consumed by the Taveta. Mnazi or palm is popular across the Coast region. Sources said Chang’aa sold in the area is coming from as far as the neighboring country.

Silas Pius, a student at Timbila High School, and women leader Editha Milimito told Ms. Onunga and Deputy Governor Christine Kilalo that illicit brews are rampant in Taveta slums which are fanning the rapid spread of HIV/Aids and promoting crime.

“The government and local leaders are doing little to not only sensitize residents on the dangers of illicit brews and drugs but also its consumption, which is fanning the rapid spread of Aids scourge in the region,” Pius told the commissioner and her security team.

The form three students shocked the meeting that many students are loitering in market centres after dropping out of school due to early pregnancies, marriages, and lack of fees hence exacerbated by rising poverty levels and skyrocketing food prices.

“Leaders are sleeping on their jobs and they do not even visit schools to monitor the progress of schools and students. Feeder roads are also in a deplorable state and expectant women are giving birth along the way to hospitals and in most cases we have been losing lives,” the student stunned the leaders.

Ms Milimito noted cases of alcoholism and FGM are rising in the region and something must be done to address the warring trend.

“Rampant alcoholism has badly been affecting families and development as it has led to the breakdown in families. We will mobilize women to raid dens to destroy the cheap liquor that has badly affected the girl and boy child education,” she warned.

Boniface Gikandi, Edward Kosut, Renson Mnyamwezi

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