Bar owners protest county alcohol control laws

Say they are designed to "kill" the sector.

In Summary

•Nyeri and Meru counties have come up with Alcoholic Drinks Control Bills.

•In Nairobi, licence fees have more than doubled. 

Bar Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BAHLITA) national chairman Simon Njoroge, Secretary General Bonface Gachoka and members, during a media briefing in Nairobi, on November 16 /HANDOUT
Bar Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BAHLITA) national chairman Simon Njoroge, Secretary General Bonface Gachoka and members, during a media briefing in Nairobi, on November 16 /HANDOUT

The Bar Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BAHLITA) has raised alarm over several Amendment Bills being introduced in counties, which they say will kill" the sector.

At a meeting in Nairobi on Thursday, the lobby group noted the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bills introduced in the county assemblies of Nyeri and Meru so far, would negatively affect the alcoholic beverages sector and harm the hospitality sector as a whole.

The Bill in Nyeri is titled 'The Nyeri County Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2023' and is now undergoing public participation. A similar Bill is set to be introduced in the Meru County Assembly.

Both Bills are based on a model Bill developed with the backing of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who has been leading the fight against alcoholism in Kenya, with a focus on the Mt Kenya region.

Bar operators however argued that the proposed law is overzealous and overreaching and will "kill", rather than control a sector that employs thousands of people in the country.

They pointed out the proposed ban on transportation of alcohol using boda-bodas, transportation at night and the further restriction on bar opening times as amounting to an onslaught on the sector.

The bar owners have also vowed to go to court to protest against the Nairobi County Government's move to double the license fees to sell alcohol in the capital city, introduced via the 2023 Finance Act assented to by Governor Johnson Sakaja.

In the new law, general retail alcoholic drinks, in premises situated within Nairobi County will cost an annual fee of Sh100, 000 up from Sh25, 000.

General retail alcoholic drinks license (off license) in respect of premises situated within the County has also been increased four times, from the initial Sh12, 000 to Sh50, 000 per year.

Bahlita argues that the majority of the contentious provisions in the county Bills run counter to the existing Alcoholic Drinks Control Act at the national level popularly known as the Mututho Law.

“We have been angered by Sakaja here in Nairobi because of the increase in license fee despite the public participation. The result will be an increase in the consumption of illicit alcohol because of the restrictions on formal alcohol, and this leads to loss of jobs,” said Bahlita secretary Boniface Gachoka.

Bahlita said it was apprehensive that public participation in the counties could be used to meet the requirement on paper without any real impact on the proposed law.

The Bills seek to restrict the sale of alcohol to take home, introduce alcohol-free zones, and restrict the sale of alcohol by wines and spirits shops outside designated areas and in hotels.

They also seek to bar the sale of alcohol to “intoxicated persons” but the operators and other players argue that the provision is vague as judging whether a person is intoxicated is not accurate.  

The Bills also seek to ban advertising of alcohol by painting or decorating buildings on the outside as well as on digital or mobile platforms, both of which are common in the alcoholic beverages sector.

It would also restrict alcohol sales by supermarkets to between 5 pm and 9 pm and in hotels and lodgings and members’ clubs to between 1 pm and 11 pm.

Distributors would also be restricted to making their deliveries to bars between 9 am and 6 pm and will be required to establish depots in every sub-county they are licensed to distribute. 


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