Chinese eatery at centre of racism storm in Nairobi closed

Two tortoises at the entrance of Chinese Restaurant, off Galana Road in Kilimanii, that was shut Tuesday. The restaurant has been accused of racism. [PHOTO: ANDREW KILONZI/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: The controversial Chinese Restaurant has been closed after it was established that it was operating illegally.

The restaurant is at the centre of a racial discrimination storm following claims that it does not admit African customers after 5pm.

Nairobi County Government officials ordered the restaurant, off Galana Road in Kilimani, closed on grounds the owner had illegally converted a residential building into a business premise.

The enforcement notice served to the owner demanded the production of development plans and provision of occupation certificate within seven days. The county government also stopped further development at the place.

A city hall official claimed the proprietor had a business licence but lacked a liquor licence allowing him to sell alcoholic drinks. The restaurant has about 15 lodging rooms.

At a press conference later, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said they had established that the owners of the restaurant had no change of user from residential to commercial.

Dr Kidero accused the management of having no valid liquor licence and failing to comply with the public health requirements for food handling and testing.

The governor said the decision will not affect the cordial and diplomatic relationship Kenya enjoyed with China.

“All business and service providers must ensure that all customers and clients are treated with respect and dignity; irrespective or race, colour, sex, tribe and religion,” he added.

The restaurant does not admit Africans after 5pm, claiming they pose a security threat to its white clients, mainly Chinese nationals.

“We don’t admit Africans that we don’t know because you never know who is Al-Shabaab and who isn’t,” Esther Zhao, one of the managers was quoted in a section of the media on Monday.

The management claims that it made the decision after the premise was attacked twice last year by people who had initially posed as clients.

The first incident involved five men who stole Sh600,000 at gun-point.

The second attack was carried out by a man and two women. The gang took cash and valuables from customers.

But an employee said he was aware of only one attack.


It was after the discrimination practice was made public that City Hall moved in, purportedly establishing that the restaurant had contravened some operation rules.

County head of security and disaster management Francis Munyambu led an inspection team to the building before workers and visitors were ordered to vacate to allow for its closure.

A kitchen steward said discrimination against Africans did not start last year as claimed by the management. The man has worked at the hotel for the last five years.

The management has also been accused of high-handedness, lack of respect for workers’ rights. Two female employees claimed that they were forced to clean toilets without protective gear.

The owner of the restaurant failed to show up the whole day as the 15 workers anxiously waited to know their fate until when Munyambu arrived and left instructions that the hotel should be closed.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly will investigate claims of racism against the Chinese restaurant.

Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi directed the House Committee on Administration and National Security to take up the matter that has caused outrage on social media.

The Speaker, responding to a request by House Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo, said the committee needs to move with speed to confirm the allegations against the restaurant.

“The best thing is to do a formal motion so that the House can address itself to the motion. As a House, we have our own rules. Let us not initiate investigations based on unconfirmed information,” said the Speaker.

—Reports by Hudson Gumbihi, Fred Makana and Wilfred Ayaga