TOUGH TIMES

Bars, restaurants hit hard as countrywide curfew takes effect

At least 9,000 bars and entertainment spots remain closed in Nairobi and Mombasa.

In Summary

•Country-wide, more than 20,000 joints are shut, according to the Pubs Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya (Perak).

•This puts more than 300,000 direct jobs on the edge with at least 2 million dependents affected.

Bar owner Samuel Nguyo at his Mojitos cocktail bar in Roysambu,Nairobi/COURTESY
Bar owner Samuel Nguyo at his Mojitos cocktail bar in Roysambu,Nairobi/COURTESY

Bars and restaurants are among millions of small scale businesses that are likely to collapse due to unprecedented financial problems brought about by the coronavirus.

Thousands of employees have been sent home on unpaid leave as businesses across the country remain closed on government directive.

This, as the 7pm–5am daily curfew announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday takes effect on Friday

 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe had earlier ordered for closure of all bars and entertainment joints starting Monday.

 

At least 5,000 bars, entertainment spots, and restaurants remain closed in Nairobi with another 4,000 in Mombasa.

Country-wide, more than 20,000 joints are shut, according to the Pubs Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya (Perak).

This puts more than 300,000 direct jobs on the edge with at least 2 million dependents affected.

“We have been very much affected as most of our businesses run at night. Most entities have been forced to send staff on unpaid leave,” Perak executive officer Eunice Ogea told the Star yesterday.

She, however, said its members have to comply to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, which has affected the country with at least 25 confirmed by Thursday.

Samuel Nguyo, a bar owner in Roysambu said he closed as early as last week when sales began dwindling as patrons kept away from crowded places.

 
 

“There has been no business since the first case of coronavirus was announced. I have closed and sent all my staff home until further notice. We don't have a choice,   we have to cooperate and manage the situations,” Nguyo said.

 

In Mombasa, Fantasy Bar and Restaurant-a famous spot within the Central Business District has sent at least 38 workers home.

“Our workers are crying because they have had to go home but there is nothing we can do. At this point, our health is more important,” said Jackeline Mutahi, CEO and director.

Bars employ over 250,000 people who in most cases earn a daily wage, according to the Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK).

It also has those who are indirectly employed through their operations like transporters, butchers, hawker and taxi operators.

The curfew coupled with the closure of businesses is therefore expected to hit a section of households hard as they remain without a source of income.

"I don't know how I will pay my rent and other bills. Providing for my family is also going to be a challenge," said Rico Kimani, a bar attender living in Kasarani.

On Wednesday, President Uhuru announced a dusk to dawn curfew that restricts all movement by persons not authorized to do so or not being medical professionals, health workers or critical and essential services providers.

Food dealers, distributors, wholesalers and transporters of farm produce are however allowed to move.

ABAK has been concerned the closure of these entities could lead to social unrest.

“Ultimately this could potentially result to social anarchy including looting, muggings, violent robberies, as has already been witnessed in other parts of the world,” chairman Gordon Mutugi said in a  statement.

Perak and Abak have been sensitising their members to comply with the required health and social requirements to curb the spread of the virus, with hopes they could remain in business.

“We were ready to comply with social distancing and provide basics such as gloves, musks and sanitisers,” Ogea said.

Last week, ABAK had appealed to county governments to consider the fact that businesses are still required to meet their obligations in terms of licensing, loan repayments, salaries, rent, and leases.