Traders in outcry after Sakaja closes nightclubs

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Owners of bars in Nairobi have termed the decision by Governor Johnson Sakaja's administration to eject nightclubs from residential areas as counterproductive.

Bar, Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BHALITA) said the county government's decision is unfair and could lead to loss of jobs and business.

"This may also open a window for county inspectorate officers to start collecting bribes from their establishments," said BHALITA Secretary General, Boniface Gachoka.

In a notice issued Friday, county secretary Jairus Musumba said they will no longer issue or renew licences for nightclubs operating in residential areas due to noise pollution.

"Those already issued are hereby cancelled and the establishments may only continue operating as bars and restaurants," he said, adding that the establishments will only be allowed to operate within specified times.

The notice said nightclub licenses will only be issued to premises operating within the Central Business District (CBD) and specified streets within select residential areas.

Musumba further instructed that bars and restaurants in residential areas to operate within the specified times and control the noise emanating from their premises.

He said all premises selling alcohol in the county must provide parking space for their clients, and warned that vehicles found parked in undesignated areas will be impounded.

But some operators in Nairobi have now cautioned that the move will affect their businesses, especially now that the festive season is approaching.

"The directive is not fair because when he says we provide parking, it means the clients will not be coming for fear of being harassed by inspectorate officers," said Sylvester Bett, a restaurant manager in Nairobi West.

"I think the governor is not being fair by saying licenses will be cancelled for joints in residential areas because the county asks many questions, including locations before one is allowed to operate," Bett said.

He said the bars are allowed to play music up to 10pm and some licenses issued by the county extend to 3am.

Gachoka said the issue should instead be sorted out diplomatically, warning that the drastic action taken by the governor could have far-reaching effects, including job losses.

"We have about 7,000 members in Nairobi who could be affected. We have asked them to comply with the law, not only on noise pollution," Gachoka said.

He called on the governor to consent to a meeting with the committee enforcing the new order, and allow BHALITA to act as an intermediary so as to reach a consensus on the matter.