In Karatina, the great beer migration ...

Beer bottles

Beer bottles on the assembly line in a modern brewery.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Karatina town and its environs in Nyeri County have for the past four days experienced an influx of thirsty beer lovers following a bar closure order in neighbouring Kirinyaga.

Karatina town is a walking distance from the Nyeri-Kirinyaga boarder.

Beer and entertainment joints have reported that the number of visitors from Kirinyaga continues to increase significantly and form a sizable number of their new customers since the bar closure order last Sunday.

Ironically, the Kirinyaga beer lovers have found a “haven” in Karatina, which is the headquarters of Mathira Constituency, and the backyard of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who is currently spearheading a major campaign to rid central Kenya of alcoholism.

She announced that the county government had withdrawn all licenses issued to liquor sellers to allow for fresh vetting.

Speaking on Saturday during the mass burial ceremony of the 17 victims at Kangai Primary School, Waiguru said no alcohol outlet will be allowed to operate in the county until it is vetted and found to be in compliance with liquor licensing regulations.

Many bar operators in Karatina who talked to the Nation said they are experiencing a windfall of sorts since the Kirinyaga lockdown.

“Much as we sympathize with our counterparts in Kirinyaga for their predicaments we are not complaining either, we are doing good business, and our daily sales volumes have significantly increased since Governor Anne Waiguru ordered the closure of bars in Kirinyaga," said Mr Francis Maina a manager at Quality bar and restaurant.

"We are doing good business. On Wednesday, I had at least 16 new customers from Kirinyaga.

Another operator at Kiaruhiu shopping center said, “The frequency at which residents of Kirinyaga are crossing the boundary to merry-make has scaled up, we can easily identify our new customers because of their heavy Ndia and Gichugu accent."

"They are blaming their governor for their woes and they tell us they hope she will return the liquor business to normalcy."

The closure of bars and alcohol joints in Kirinyaga County after the death of 17 people has not gone down well as a section of bar operators and residents have protested the move.

“This is unfair to us. Closing alcohol joints does not mean that everyone will suddenly become a bishop. It is our right to enjoy our drink of choice,” protested Joseph Murimi, a resident of Kerugoya town.

He lamented that those who loved their bottle were having a hard time because they had nowhere to quench their thirst in the County.

Some entertainment joints are said to be relocating from Kirinyaga County to other towns in neighbouring counties.

“You can’t punish a whole sector just because of one errant bar owner. Those selling genuine alcohol should be allowed to continue,"  said a Kirinyaga bar owner who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation.

"Life and business do not stop just because of one incident. After this saga, we will be expected to pay school fees for our children, so I don’t see any sense in forcing us to close our business just because one person has done it wrong," he added.

Even so, as the Kirinyaga beer lovers seek refuge in Karatina, operators of liquor outlets in the town have had their fair share of problems with the authorities.

On Tuesday, National government administrators led by Mathira East Assistant County Commissioner Mr Rupare Rinyai and the local police boss Ephantus  Kariuki raided a liquor depot where they seized hundreds of crates of banned beer estimated to be worth Sh 4 million.