The closure of the bar at State House has left some of the people residing in the house on the hill in a parched predicament. With the once-convenient watering hole shuttered, the inhabitants are now facing challenges in finding suitable alternatives to quench their thirst.
Speaking to The Nairobian off the cuff, the residents said that they have been forced to visit nearby alcohol outlets, including dingy drinking outlets in the slum near State House baptized Sego.
"You know that the alcohol at State House was subsidized and affordable to us. The bar served more than 300 families, including a whole GSU camp, the drivers, the bosses, and the cooks," a top security official at State House told The Standard, adding,
"Those who have money can easily organize parties in their house, and for some of us, like police officers who earn peanuts, we can meet at Sego."
For years, the bar at State House had served as a convenient and exclusive destination for residents to enjoy a wide array of beverages and socialize in an elegant setting. However, President William Ruto ordered the establishment closed, leaving the residents grappling with limited options.
On April 20, lawyer Donald Kipkorir said that the Head of State told him he had pulled down the bar after he asked for wine during a one-on-one meeting with Ruto at State House.
"We reminisced over our friendship that goes back to 1992. I asked for a glass of wine, and he told me he pulled down the bar that was there.
"I was given delicious short ribs without wine! It was a humbling experience meeting the president and repairing our friendship," Kipkorir noted, adding that the two walked down memory lane since their friendship blossomed in 1992 and weathered the political storm over three decades.
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Banned by First Lady Lucy Kibaki
The bar had also been closed during President Kibaki's stay at the house on the hill by First Lady Lucy Kibaki on grounds that his buddies had made a habit of converging there to gossip with him.
When Uhuru Kenyatta took over, the office of the Aid de Camp was converted to serve state residents. Other places State House officials get alcohol are at the State House supermarket, where all commodities are sold tax-free.
"We are forced to spend up to Sh8,000 on Mzinga (one-litre bottle) in Kilimani bars and restaurants near State House. However, we would have accessed it here tax-free," a state house resident said.
Security experts argued that it was good for State House residents to drink at State House, unlike going out, where the officers are likely to reveal more information, which can get into the wrong hands.
"You know most junior state house officers earn fewer salaries, and you never know who will but them or with whom they are hanging out together."
A top security official at State House said that residents are now venturing beyond the confines of State House, flocking to nearby bars in Nairobi to quench their thirst.
"These establishments, which have seen a sudden surge in clientele, have become popular hangout spots for the residents, who often mingle with locals and engage in conversations about various topics," a State House neighbour said.
Hosting private parties
In addition to visiting bars, some residents have resorted to purchasing their preferred drinks from supermarkets or hosting private parties in their own homes.
While the closure of the bar has caused inconvenience, it has also allowed the residents to explore the vibrant bar scene in Nairobi. They have discovered new venues and experienced the diverse array of offerings in the city's nightlife. This unexpected change has fostered a sense of community among the residents as they share recommendations and anecdotes about their newfound favourite spots.
Speaking to one of the residents, who wished to remain anonymous, she said that the closure of the State House bar was unexpected and has affected their social routine. She however added that it has allowed them to explore the city and connect with people outside their immediate circle.
"We are adapting and making the best of the situation. While the closure of the State House bar has disrupted the lives of the residents, it has also presented them with a chance to explore new social avenues. As the city's bar scene becomes their new playground, these residents are finding solace and camaraderie in the diverse venues and experiences that Nairobi has to offer," she said.
But even as some residents continue to adapt to this new normal, speculation remains rife about the future of the State House bar.