COUNTY ONTO ILLICIT BREWERS

Kiambaa bar owners oppose new licensing law

Their chairman says they shouldn't be compelled to pay for licenses until 11 court petitions are determined

In Summary

• Bar owner says they are mistaken for people selling illicit brew, leading to closure of their legal bars. 

• County official says they are licensing legal bars, 1,300 already licensed. 

Kiambaa bar owner Grace Wanjiku and other bar owners during a press briefing on Wednesday, July 17.
LIQUOR LICENSING: Kiambaa bar owner Grace Wanjiku and other bar owners during a press briefing on Wednesday, July 17.
Image: Stanley Njenga

Legitimate Kiambu bar owners complain that they are blamed for selling illicit liquor and shut down when only one person is found selling illicit liquor in their area.

In a meeting on Wednesday in Ruaka Shopping Centre, Kiambaa subcounty bar owners called upon Governor Ferdinand Waititu to give them licenses so they can operate without a hitch.

“We want to follow rule of law and implementation of Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2018 to take effect as we do not want to be fighting the government. We want bars to operate in a conducive environment,” Kiambaa Liquor Board chairman Samuel Gakumo said.

Bar owners have challenged the 2018 county liquor control act in court, saying that its conditions are too strict and will put them out of business. The conditions cover times and areas of operation. They also require bar operators to state the sources of their liquor.

They complain they were not involved in drafting the law by the previous administration.

Licensing has been frozen for the time being.

Some bar owners say they are being harassed by anonymous county officials in test messages and told to pay  for licenses

Bar owner Grace Wanjikufrom Cianda ward said they have suffered because legitimate bar owners are mistaken for illicit brew traders. 

“When one person sells illicit brews and second-generation brew,  all those operating bars in that area are mistakenly thought to be selling the bad brews, she said.

"This leads to the closure of all bars. This hurts the business of legitimate traders,” Wanjiku said. 

Kiambu County Bar Owners Association chairman Richard Kagiri said that there are 11 petitions in the High Court awaiting hearings and rulings. He questioned the legality of the Alcoholic Act 2018, saying a decision must be reached before the county implements the law is yet to be gazetted.

“We are governed by rule of law and the county government cannot effect a law which is in question in court,” Kagiri said.

He said the bar owners he represents should not pay for licences. 

“We are not fighting the government, all we are saying is that law should be followed," Kagiri said.

He said they have held more than four meetings with Governor Waititu to find ways the issue can be handled out of court.

"We agreed on the need for a committee of 17 persons from the bar owners, county assembly committee and experts to sit down and formulate another law that is favourable." 

A spot check by the Star reveals that some bar owners have been paying for licences receiving a text message sent to them by a county government official. Some MCAs who requested anonymity alleged the money goes to personal accounts. 

Kagiri warned bar owners against being duped "since there is no law governing payment of licences of bars this year".

County director of the Liquor Licensing Board Geoffrey Kaara said the county government is licensing qualified bars only.

So far 1,300 bars have been licensed, he said. 

“We cannot have bars operating without licenses. The law provides for this and we will close down those that have not yet complied with rules and regulations,” Kaara said.

Governor Waititu said he is committed to ensuring that only legal drinks are sold, He said he will ensure sellers have a conducive environment as long as they conform to regulations on the sale of alcoholic drinks. 

Edited by R.Wamochie