Bar owners now reject government's crackdown against illicit brews

National Bar Owners Chairman Simon Njoroge (center) addressing the media regarding the recent closure of some of the Bars on March 23, 2023. (Elvis Ogina, Standard)

Bar owners have withdrawn their support for the ongoing fight against illicit brews in the country.

They argue that the government is now targeting traders who are operating genuine businesses and drinks instead of those selling illicit brews.

Bar, Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BHALITA) said that local administrators and police are now storming into bars to arrest revelers.

BHALITA Secretary General Boniface Gachoka said since the operation started, about 23,000 wines and spirits joints and bars have been closed illegally.

This he said has left about 800,000 people jobless directly and indirectly.

“This industry supports 35,000 farmers, if this crackdown continues in the next one month, 20,000 farmers including those farming barley, oranges, and pineapples will lose market,” Gachoka said.

BHALITA chairman Simon Njoroge said that local administrators and police are now storming into bars to arrest revelers.

The officials spoke on Saturday in Nairobi, when they also claimed that the officers carted away genuine liquor sold on the premises.

“When it started, we supported the process because the vetting was for manufacturers which were 55 and the bar owners were comfortable with the process,” Njoroge said on Saturday.

He added, “but the reality on the ground has proved that this is not fight against illicit and second generation brews but closing down of licensed bars.”

The liquor traders accuse chiefs, County commissioners and their deputies of closing down businesses that do not sell illicit brews.

The association said that many bar owners have been arrested and liquor stock confiscated by the police.

They said advance payments known as deposit money have also been taken by the police.

“In some instances, the OCSs ask for cash bails ranging from Sh20,000 to Sh30,000 and no receipts are issued. That is just corruption,” the chairman stated.

“We support the fight against illicit brews but when you come and start arresting genuine traders then it portrays that the fight is not serious,” Njoroge added.

The liquor traders argued that there is a need to re-look into licensing citing that some bars next to learning institutions are closed, yet they were in business before the schools were put up.

 “There are also issues of churches. Why close down a bar next to a place of worship yet worshiper only shows up on Sunday but bars operate on a daily basis,” Njoroge added.

Gachoka said: “We support the government's fight against illicit brews because we don’t sell them. Those doing it are powerful people that is we want the crackdown stopped or we move to court,”

By AFP 24 mins ago
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