Hotel, bar owners tell State why they want Keroche reopened

A worker at Keroche Breweries in Naivasha

A worker at Keroche Breweries following the resumption of operations on March 16, 2022. Beer production at the Naivasha-based company had been halted for over over month due to a tax dispute with KRA.

Photo credit: Macharia Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Hotel and bar owners in Nakuru have asked the government to reopen Keroche Breweries, arguing that its closure had led to massive job losses.

The Naivasha-based brewer was closed last week following a tax row with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), rendering more than 400 direct employees jobless.

The Bars, Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (Bahlita) wants the government to strike a deal with the company to allow it to restart its operations.

Bahlita secretary-general Boniface Gachoka said the closure of Keroche, which has a 20 per cent market share, was against the government’s vision to create, increase and maintain jobs.

“It will affect retailers, distributors and small business owners who have been depending on Keroche to earn a living,” he said, adding that indirectly, the company employs more than 5,000 people in the distribution chain.

Mr Gachoka said that a lot of revenue is being lost, as some bars and distributors had been closed down for lack of stock.

He alleged that there was lack of goodwill in how the government had dealt with the company linked to Tabitha Karanja, saying she was being punished for her political affiliation.

Mrs Karanja is vying for the Nakuru Senate seat under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, and various leaders have linked her woes to her political affiliation.

On June 17, Azimio One Kenya alliance leader Raila Odinga asked the government to reopen the brewery. Deputy President and UDA flagbearer William Ruto and several members of Parliament have also urged the state to reopen the factory.

But the plea was declined by KRA Commissioner-General Githii Mburu.

Mr Mburu said that since its reopening in March, Keroche had broken the terms of an agreement to pay tax arrears and failed to pay a single cent in duty from beer sales.

He said that Keroche was aware of the March agreement's provision allowing the taxman to pursue enforcement action if it violated the payment terms.

But Bahlita officials from Subukia, Gilgil, Nakuru East, Nakuru West, Bahati, Rongai and others want the state to be considerate and reopen the factory.

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