CHALLENGE

Bar owners decry police harassment in Langata

There are about 890 bars, hotels and liquour outlets in the area.

In Summary

•While a recent circular by Tourism CS Najib Balala notes that hospitality outlets should stop serving at 9pm, some  say they are forced to close as early as 6.30pm.

•Bar Hotels Liquor Traders Association (BAHLITA) have condemned the harassment and plan to petition the Inspector General of police to take action.

Attendants clean a bar in Nairobi/FILE
Attendants clean a bar in Nairobi/FILE
Image: FILE

Bar and restaurant operators in Lang'ata have decried continued harassment by the police in the area, amid confusion on operating hours.

While a recent circular and clarification by Tourism CS Najib Balala notes that hospitality oulets should stop serving at 9pm, some of the outlets say they are forced to close as early as 6.30pm.

They have cited extortion and intimidation by the area OCPD, calling on the Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai to intervene.

They have also called on the Tourism and the health ministries to give clear guidelines on operating hours.

We stop selling of alcohol by 7pm and continue to serve food but the police push us to close even as early as 6.30pm,” a bar and restaurant owner said during a spot check by the Star over the weekend, where we noted contingents of plain clothed and uniformed police around entertainment spots.

Area OCPD Benjamin Mwanthi however dismissed the claims saying only the sale of alcohol is stopped at 7pm.

None has been harassed. We are just following the directives where sale of alcoholic drinks closes at 7pm but they are allowed to serve food until 9pm,” Mwanthi told the Star.

The Bar Hotels Liquor Traders Association (BAHLITA) however confirmed existing harassment of its members in the area, which has about 890 bars, hotels and liquour outlets.

I am aware of what is going on in Lang'ata and those are acts of selfishness because Najib Balala made a very clear clarification in a recent circular. That person (OCPD) is trying to put his own way of regulations and we don't know where he is getting powers from,” BAHLITA Secretary-General Boniface Gachoka

He said the association will make an official complain to the Inspector General of police on harassment of outlets not only in Lang'ata, but other regions where members have complained.

Last month, CS Balala warned against extortion of business premises by law enforcement agencies, even as he cautioned bar and restaurant owners against flouting Covid-19 protocols.

He said the hospitality industry should stop serving people at 9pm.

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 said during a press conference in Nairobi.

Mid this month, officers from Karen Police Station came under the spotlight for storming into a restaurant Spasso Restaurant and Bar at Karen Shopping Centre,and carted away an assortment of drinks.

IG Hillary Mutyambai ordered a probe into the incident.