Mathira’s economy takes a beating on closure of bars

closed bar

A closed liquor shop. Small businesses are reeling from the four-month closure of entertainment venues in Mathira, Nyeri County.   

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Also affected are people who operate eateries and those in the transport sector.
  • Small businesses are reeling from the four-months-long closure of entertainment joints

Residents' pain over the closure of alcohol outlets in Mathira perfectly depicts the law of unintended consequences, which posits that actions and decisions, especially by the government, can have adverse and unforeseen results.

With the local economy in tatters and hundreds of jobs lost, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua'scrusade against alcoholism and illicit brews now seems to be hitting locals in unexpected ways.

Small business people such as boda boda operators and vendors of street foods are reeling from the four-months-long closure of entertainment joints in the DP's backyard, which, incidentally, is the only sub-county that had effected a total moratorium on the alcohol business.

Also affected are people who operate eateries and those in the transport sector. About 400 bar owners have now petitioned the national government to allow them to reopen their businesses, saying, the closure had negatively impacted the local economy.

Club owners

“The closure of these establishments has not only affected bar and club owners, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs, but has also caused a detrimental ripple effect across different sectors that depend on our operations, denying them a source of livelihood,” the traders said in the petition that was signed by Mathira Bar Owners Association Chairman Charles Wachira Ngatia.

Last month, Central Regional Commissioner Frederick Shisia had chaired a high-level meeting that agreed on the phased reopening of bars starting with high-end establishments. The resolution has, however, not been implemented. And, last week, some of the operators attempted to reopen their doors but the government came down hard on them.

The closure of the bars, which the government says is due to their proximity to learning institutions and churches, has created a scene reminiscent of the Covid-19 pandemic days. Loud music blasting from drinking joints, people enjoying nyama choma and mutura (barbecued cow tripe), and inebriated revelers staggering home have become rare scenes.

Illicit liquor    

 “Although we are supporting the government in its fight against illicit liquor, the blanket closure of bars has badly affected our business,” Mathira Boda Boda Association Chairman Benjamin Mwangi told the Nation. "We used to ferry revellers home when the bars closed at 11pm but this is no longer the case.”

Ms Mercy Wacuka, who used to hawk sausages and boiled eggs from bar to bar, said she has lost her only source of a livelihood.

 “This government promised to uplift the hustlers but they are now making us poorer by the day,” she said. Echoing her views were many other small-scale traders, who called on the government to allow licensed establishments to reopen.

 “I hope they will come up with a solution and open the bars. You can see there are no customers,” said Mr Jackson Muriithi, who runs a streetside mutura stand.