Kenya’s alcohol sector players lobby for increased operating hours to aid industry recovery

KENYA – The Alcohol Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) has petitioned the government to increase the operating period of bars by two hours in the wake of falling Covid-19 infection rates.

According to the liquor traders’ representative, a further two hours of operations by the outlets and other entertainment joints will serve to cushion the hit on the industry.

The Association is backing its push on the recent fall in the COVID-19 positivity rate which has averaged below five per cent.

“Abak notes the Covid-19 positivity rate in the last week has been averaging below five per cent, which is the recommended rate by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for consideration in adjusting public health and social measures in the context of Covid-19,” said Eric Githua, chair of Abak.

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ABAK reckons the further easing of restrictions to the operations of liquor traders will serve to create more employment opportunities, aid the recovery of business costs, support manufacturing sector and keep consumers away from illicit brews.

Currently, bars are only allowed to operate until 7pm with only restaurants getting the nod to stay open until one hour to the nationwide 10pm curfew.

The association insists the impact of the restrictions is having far reaching consequences beyond that of liquor traders.

For instance, the demand for millet and sorghum grain has tumbled to an equivalent of Ksh.650 million (US$5.8m) loss of income for the farmers since the pandemic’s hit last year.

The petition comes barely three days after Bar Hotels Liquor Traders Association called for a full reopening of the economy, saying that more than 250,000 jobs have been lost since the onset of Covid-19 in Kenya.

With the reduced business hours by the licenced operators, consumers have found alternatives to quench their thirst.

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This led to the number of wines and spirits shops licensed in Nairobi in 2020 increase by 274% compared to previous years.

This was revealed by Nairobi County liquor board CEO Hesbon Agwena, highlighting that a total of 1,648 liquor stores were registered in Nairobi alone in 2020, compared with 440 in 2019 and 430 in 2018.

The trend has been heightened by emergence of new norms such as open grounds filling with cars as ‘park and chill’ becoming the in thing.

East African Breweries PLC’s full year revenue results concur with the findings as the company recently reported a 15% growth in top line earnings with the Kenyan market contributing 66% of the total sales.

Sales in the country rose by 11 percent, particularly in spirits segment which was 24% for mainstream category and 24% for total spirits, readily available in the liquor shops.

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