Florida nightclub [Photo: David Gichuru]

Many entertainment joints may never roar back to life even when they are allowed back in operation, thanks to Covid-19, which has changed the way we socialise. The result is that thousands in the hospitality industry will not have their jobs back and men and women are already ditching the bottle. “It is rather weird thinking of a meet-up with my boys at Tamasha on a Saturday afternoon to have nyama choma without taking a beer or two,” says David Mutua, a 27-year-old accountant. “Nyama choma over a football game goes well with a drink. This is how we unwind. By telling bars and restaurants to operate without selling alcohol, you are simply telling them to close down.”

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Florida 2000, an entertainment spot in Nairobi, is one that could close down. After its false exit in 2015 when it moved from its traditional spot located along Banda Street to an adjacent building, the 44-year-old club, could be bowing to the Covid-19 pressure. A source within the management admitted that the club has been struggling and with the government directive closing all bars and banning the sale of alcohol in restaurants, the spot could just be making its exit. And it is not just Florida 2000, or Mad House as it is popularly referred to, that is bowing to the weight of the hard economic times.

According to a report by the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (Perak), an estimated 25 per cent of clubs and restaurants across Kenya are expected to shut down by the end of this month, and about 10 per cent in Nairobi might never come back. K’Osewe Ranalo Foods recently closed down one of its Nairobi branches. Trouble started on March 22 when the government directed that all pubs and entertainment venues be closed. A month later, this was revised to allow restaurants to sell alcohol with meals. But this was reversed when President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a new directive last month, banned the consumption of alcohol in public.

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According to the Perak report, about 1.2 million employees who work in the 25,000-odd clubs and restaurants in Kenya could be rendered jobless as the hospitality industry chokes under the weight of the new sanctions. “Even as the economy opens up with the resumption of international travels and a boost to tourism, not much progress can really take place in the local hospitality industry with the given restrictions,” said Alice Opee, the Perak national chairperson.

According to the report by Perak, bars and restaurants generate monthly revenue of Sh3 million each, totalling Sh900 billion annually. But now most bars and restaurants are in debt as a result of accrued rent, staff pay and broke owners. They are also counting losses as a result of dead stock. “Nairobi alone accounts for an estimated 8,000 outlets most of which are at risk of closure. In fact, most of your favourite pubs and restaurants might never make it back if this ban continues,” said Opee. Carl Furaha, one of the directors of Blend Lounge in NextGen Mall on Mombasa Road, said it is only a matter of time before they give up.

“Our initial investment was about Sh15 million and we had only been here for about a year before the government announced that clubs should close. We also have two other outlets, which are equally affected,” Furaha said. “We are still paying the Sh250,000 monthly rent, that is without counting electricity costs, service charge and taxes. Entertainment is about hype. Even if we were to sell food, it is important to note that people eat as they drink.

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Entertainment industry touches on musicians, comedians and deejays too. It also factors in suppliers such as East Africa Breweries Limited that recently announced a decline in sales for the first time in years. It is connected to agro-farming and other farm products as well as the security industry.