Court orders for joint talks on proposed closure of noisy night clubs

Noise pubs

A number of vehicles parked outside a famous pub along Thika Road as pictured on December 3, 2022. The area has a number of night clubs which have been accused of causing unwanted noise to the neighboring residentials.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu I Nation Media Group

A court has ordered Nairobi County government and the Pub Entertainment & Restaurant Association of Kenya to hold joint talks within 120 days and develop regulatory or administrative guidelines on noise pollution.

Justice Mugure Thande issued the directive following a suit filed by lawyer Kevine Otieno Ondago challenging decision by Governor Johnson Sakaja to close down night clubs located within residential areas.

The basis of the suit are fears that the clampdown will trigger layoffs of 96,600 workers and monthly losses of over Sh2 billion.

Justice Thande however declined to suspend the governor’s decision and instead granted the lawyer’s prayer for an order for the negotiations with a view of solving the stalemate.

According to the court order, others to participate in the talks are the Nairobi city county alcoholic drinks control and licencing board, the county secretary, national environment management authority and Inspector-General of Police 

The order indicates that the parties are expected to hold joint discussions and come up with guidelines that would be predictable, discernible and feasible to implement and are devoid of discretion in implementation.

The guidelines are also expected to outline short-term, medium-term and long-term obligations of both parties and contain an implementation matrix clearly outlining the responsibilities of bar and restaurants once licence and promote self-regulation.

The crackdown on the night clubs was triggered by a public notice dated November 25, 2022 cancelling licences of bars, restaurants and night clubs situated in residential areas following public uproar over noise pollution.

Governor Sajaka stated that night club licenses will be issued to premises only within the Central Business District and specified streets in other non-residential areas.

But Mr Ondago says the decision was unilateral and that the governor failed to seek input of the public or the stakeholders affected by the closure.

“The sudden and unilateral decision of the County Government of Nairobi to shut down businesses that it has itself licensed to operate, is a direct and immediate threat to livelihoods as it will lead to massive loss of employment,” says Mr Ondago.

He says apart from the workers, entertainers such as Disc Jokers and music bands will also be affected by the continued closure of the clubs.

Revenue streams

“Each night club operate with about three Disc Jokers (DJs) or a band who entertain patrons. Each DJ earns an average of Sh50,000 per night. With the declaration by Nairobi County, night clubs will have to lay off two out of the three DJs per club, leading to over 800 DJs with total income loss of Sh40 million per night,” says his lawyer Mr Peter Wanyama. He says a music band at such night clubs earns an average of Sh100,000 per night.

He adds that the county government’s revenue streams will also be affected as each night club pays annual licence fee of Sh130,000 per licence, which translates to a revenue of Sh52 million in liquor licence fees paid to the county government every year.

“This is exclusive of other county licenses such as food handling, health, fire, single business permit and branding. It is expected that the ban on night clubs licences will take bars’ sales back to the Covid-19 period, where overall consumption of legal alcohol had declined by 30 per cent,” he claims.

His lawyer Peter Wanyama adds that the ban has a negative value chain impact on small holder farmers and local supplies, who provide raw materials for manufacturing.

The court also directed the parties to exchange their documents and responses be filed before January 18, 2023.

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