Pub owners call for easing of COVID-19 restrictions, legislators reject bill to raise minimum alcohol packaging

KENYA – Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK) have appealed for the revision of operating hours to include a potential lift of the night time curfew in a bid to enable full recovery of the alcohol and hospitality industries.

Recently, there have been growing calls to end curfew hours against a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

According to PERAK, the COVID-19 restrictions have immensely affected their businesses and caused economic damage highlighting that more than 30% of its members have had to close their establishments as a result of the pandemic.

The permanently shut establishments represent about 16,000 businesses covering the livelihoods of an estimated 160,000 Kenyans, reports Citizen Kenya.

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“We would like to appeal to His Excellency the President to consider our plight and lift the restrictions on operating hours or reduce the curfew hours, if not do away with it altogether.

“If we continue operating in the current circumstances, our various sectors will continue on a dangerous downhill trend that is likely to result in more suffering and joblessness,” said Mike Muthamia, Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK) board member.

The government of Kenya issued the directive of re-opening of bars and sale of alcoholic drinks and beverages by ordinary restaurants and eateries in September last year after a six-month period of shut-down.

With the resumption of operations, the outlets were slated to operate until 10p.m. every day in line with the nation-wide curfew time.

In November, trade ministry further published 16 general hygiene measures for safe operation of bar and pub owners to implement, aimed to tame the spread of COVID-19.

According to the lobby body, they have been compliant to the set guidelines and have been operating on reduced number of hours but the infection rates have recently been soaring.

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“We would like to appeal to His Excellency the President to consider our plight and lift the restrictions on operating hours or reduce the curfew hours, if not do away with it altogether.”

Mike Muthamia – Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (PERAK) board member

Win for the alcohol industry

Meanwhile, the National Assembly’s Administration and National Security Committee has rejected a bill that sought to restrict the packaging and sale of alcoholic drinks to bottles of 750 millilitres.

The Alcoholic Drinks & Control (Amendment) Bill, 2020 fronted by Wundanyi MP Danson Mwakuwona had sought to amend the 2010 law by limiting the packaging of alcoholic products in containers of a minimum of 750 millilitres from the current 250 millilitres, to curb consumption and abuse among the youth and low-income earners.

The legislator had argued that the sale of alcoholic drinks in low quantity packages made it easily affordable and accessible to the youth.

However, the committee disallowed the proposed changes saying there were sufficient existing laws to guard against alcohol consumption among the youth, hence it was needless to make changes in packaging requirements, reports Business Daily.

“The proposed measures in the Bill will impact negatively on the alcoholic beverage industry consequently leading to job losses and reducing the amount of tax remitted to the government,” the committee says.

The rejection of the new packaging requirements also brings relief to the alcohol manufacturers who would have been forced to purchase new bottles, install new packaging lines and reduce their staff numbers due to a fall in volumes of alcohol sold.

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