• The Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya has asked the devolved governments to uphold fair administrative action when implementing directives to ban bars from operating.
• ABAK says bars employ over 250,000 people who in most cases earn a daily wage hence closing them will render these people jobless.
Alcohol manufacturers have warned counties that closure of bars and entertainment spots would result in a bigger economic impact than anticipated.
The industry players have asked county governments to be considerate as they implement measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
In a letter to the Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, the Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya has asked counties to be fair when implementing directives.
ABAK chairman Gordon Mutugi said that while the industry supports the limits on public gatherings to control the spread of the virus, the decision by 16 county governments to ban the operations of bars and entertainment spots was unwarranted.
About 9,615 outlets have been affected by the actions taken by county governments.
Mutugi said the alcoholic beverage sector currently supports more than two million people, who depend on the alcoholic beverage value chain for their daily upkeep.
“Closure of bars disrupts value chains, deepening the negative impact of the pandemic to the economy,” Mutugi said.
ABAK has asked the counties to consider the fact that the businesses still need to meet obligations such as licensing, loan repayments, salaries, rent and leases, and the responsibilities of taking care of their families.
“Bars employ over 250,000 people who in most cases earn a daily wage. Closing them will render these people jobless, jeopardize their support for over 2 million livelihoods and directly lead to social unrest,” Murugi notes.
Ultimately this could potentially result in social anarchy including looting, muggings, violent robberies, as has already been witnessed in other parts of the world, Murugi warns.
Counties that have ordered the closure of bars and entertainment facilities include Nyeri, Mombasa, Kilifi, Narok, Murang'a, Kajiado, Kisumu, Meru and the North Rift Economic Bloc (Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Trans-Nzoia, Samburu).
Most bars are in the category of Small and Medium Enterprises and are mostly owned and operated by women, and employ thousands of youth, ABAK says.
According to the association, closing them indiscriminately would also push drinkers in the direction of illicit alcohol, which would compound the problem.
ABAK has asked the Council of Governors to encourage good hygiene and social distancing in all public spaces, allow alcohol sales for responsible consumption at home and safeguard communities from the menace of illicit alcohol.
Counties should avoid outlawing legitimate business communities who are part of the economy that is suffering from the effects of the pandemic, the association says.
The association also asked the county governments to implement the advisory published by Makueni, Machakos and Vihiga counties, where licensed outlets have been allowed to strictly operate between 5pm and 11pm.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has also asked bars to operate within the set hours and as per the guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
ABAK and its members are running a robust campaign to promote hygiene through the donation of over 100,000 litres of hand sanitisers to 40,000 bars, 7,000 direct employees, and 2.4 million vulnerable urban population living in slums.
The association is also leading a drive public awareness campaign which involves the printing of 100,000 pieces of A3 posters to sensitize the over 40,000 bars on the coronavirus pandemic and the measures they should take to minimise the spread.
The same is being publicised through social media campaigns.
ABAK is also discouraging overcrowding at the bars by offering bar owners the option of stocking portable alcoholic drink formats.
It encourages consumers to buy alcoholic products to consume at home responsibly and practice social distancing.