Balala puts bars on notice over flouting Covid rules

Culprits to have licenses revoked for one year.

In Summary

•Bars allowed to operate up to 9pm but sales stop at 8.30.

•Meanwhile, Balala has projected full recovery of the tourism industry to be in 2024, even as the country start to record high numbers this year, compared to last year.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has sent a strong warning to bars, restaurants and entertainment spots flouting the Covid-19 protocols, saying they will be punished.

This includes revocation of their licenses for a period of one year, if found to have violated the set rules put in place by government to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Violators will also be “named and shamed.”

This, even as the CS projects a normalcy in international arrivals which he says will be from the year 2024.

While the government and industry players have agreed on self- regulation for the sector, the government has put in place a multi-agency enforcement team led by the Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) to monitor compliance.

“ We will take action on those who break the law so that we don't destroy the sector because of a few greedy people. I want to make it very clear that their licenses will be canceled for one year.

The ministry has reached an agreement with PERAK (Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya) to narrow down on outlets breaking the law.

A recent spot check by the Star revealed bars and clubs along Ngong Road and its environment, Thika Road (including within estates) Kilimani, Umoja, Donholm, and Mombasa Road are operating beyond curfew hours.

“We close the doors and patrons continue drinking with low music being played. It is the new norm,” a security staff told the Star at one of the joints in Umoja.

There are over 40,000 bars in Nairobi alone, majority within estates.

“We are trying to take action on mitigating this pandemic and a few of us , because they think they can make quick bucks , they break the law. We will take action,” Balala warned.

Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate up to 9pm, he clarified from a previous closure time of 7pm. Curfew time is 10pm to 4am.

He warned against extortion of these premises by law enforcement agencies.

“I understand some enforcement officers will go to restaurants and force them to close down at 7pm other wise that game of extortion takes place, I want to make it very clear that 9pm is when everything must be shut down. 8.30 you stop serving, 9pm everybody is out,” he clarified.

Balala spoke in Nairobi yesterday during a briefing on the revised magical Kenya tourism and travel health and safety protocols, which industry players have played a big role in formulating.

The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) chief executive Mike Macharia urged sector players to adhere to the set rules, noting the government has given the industry a life-line by increasing operating hours, as opposed to declaring a lock-down in the wake of the new Covid strain.

“We have seen the industry beginning to pick up. We need to deliver our services in a safe manner,” Macharia said.

Meanwhile, Balala has projected full recovery of the tourism industry to be in 2024, even as the country starts to record high numbers, compared to last year.

Tourism Research Institute (TRI) data indicates Kenya recorded 305,635 international arrivals between January and June 2021.

This is 262, 213 shy of the total arrival recorded in full year 2020.

The industry has been susttained mainly by the domestic market which is also facing low disposable income in the wake of job losses and pay cuts over the pandemic period.

With continued vaccination across the globe, travel is expected to pick from next year.

“2022 will be a positive year, 2023 will be a recovery year and full recovery will be 2024,” Balala said.

According to the CS, Kenya needs to target countries that have vaccinated their populations mainly the US, UK and China.

'Those are the people who will be moving sooner than others,”Balala said, even as he insisted on vaccinating more Kenyans especially in the hospitality industry to give confidence to international travelers coming to Kenya.