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Reprieve for bar owners as hours of operation extended

Bar and restaurant operators have pledged to abide by the protocols to limit the spread of Covid-19 and offered to have their establishments become vaccination centres following the reopening.

The operators’ associations have also asked revelers to abide by the rules to avoid a resurgence of infections that would force the Government to come up with the restrictions that have hampered operations since March 2020.

“The hospitality sector has gone through one of the darkest periods in the history of Kenya,” said Frank Mbogo, the chairman of the Nairobi branch of the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya, at a press conference in Nairobi.

The operators said the lifting of the curfew by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the clarification by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on opening hours have been a huge relief. They estimate that the combined loss of revenue, jobs and livelihoods in the sector during the pandemic amounts to more than KSh150 billion.

“Allowing people to resume business is the first step towards attaining the economic prosperity that we all crave. We hope that with time, the 15,000 bars that were forced to shut down will revive or come back in another form and the sector will thrive enough to get the more than 90,000 people who lost jobs back at work,” said Mr Mbogo.

The associations said the self-regulating mechanisms set up at the height of the pandemic would continue.

“Our wish, which we can all help fulfill, is to have operations going back to normal and to never have again to shut down. Operators will continue to abide by the Bar Kumi idea, which is a self-regulating mechanism to ensure adherence to the protocols,” said Boniface Gachoka, the secretary of the Bar, Hotel and Liquor Traders Association.

The operators urged the Ministry of Health to establish partnerships with some of them, especially the large establishments, to use their premises as vaccination centres.

“Bars are gathering points for people and like churches, can become one of the places where people can be sure to access vaccines regularly,” said Mr Gachoka.

The operators said such partnerships would come with incentives for drinkers to get vaccinated, such as a drink for everyone who goes for vaccination.

Simon Njoroge, the chairman of the Bar, Hotel and Liquor Traders Association, urged revelers to avoid drinking and driving.

Mr Njoroge said the Interior Ministry should roll out a Rapid Results Initiative to tackle illicit and counterfeit alcohol, which have proliferated during the pandemic.

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