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Kenya reopen after a prolonged closure due to Covid-19 pandemic

By Chebet Korir
Friday, October 2nd, 2020
Kenya reopen after a prolonged closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In summary

As bars and clubs in Kenya reopen after a prolonged closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is time for the sector to implement the strategies learnt during the period, writes Chebet Korir

Its official, “Mnaweza kunywa pombe sawa (You can now partake alcohol). These are the exact words President Uhuru Kenyatta used on Monday as he announced the reopening of bars.

The entertainment joints were forced to shut their doors in March, as one of the measures by the government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In nightclubs across Kenya, the once crowded dance floors have remained empty for months as waiters, waitresses, deejays, bouncers, cooks and cleaners lost their daily hustle.

In fact, according to Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya (Perak) national chairperson Alice Opee, the closure resulted in about 500,000 job losses in the sector, sinking close to Sh50 billion in revenues.

However, they have something to smile about as things have taken a different turn.

Clubbing on the other hand has been an activity that many party lovers have missed; popping bottles, meeting friends and endless requests for the DJ until the wee hours of the morning had seemed like a distant history.

While such distraction and a chance to blow off some steam might be welcome after the pandemic lockdowns, the current situation might spell trouble for nightlife.

How can people safely pop bottles while respecting the new normal, especially the social distancing measures?

“It might not be the case that people have to wear masks, but it will be mandatory to have their temperature taken before they are admitted into our premise.

Also, there will be a limited number of patrons inside the club, and no other client will be allowed to enter once we reach our maximum capacity as per the set social distancing measures,” says Tim Matiba, the owner of Blend Nairobi, a 2,000-capacity club located at the Nextgen Mall along Mombasa Road.

For Branden Mmata, a director at the Tunnel—a club just a stone throw away from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport—the most important thing is to take care of the staff before anyone else.

“They play a big role in any establishment. For now, we have tested all our employees and our main aim is to maintain a favourable and safe environment for our clients and employees.

To attain this, we are particularly insisting on proper sanitation,” he tells Spice.

As many clubs try to reopen and stay afloat, the likes of The Edge club located in the Nairobi Central Business District will not be reopening soon.

“I think we need to observe how things will work out first before hurriedly opening the club.

We need to strategise and come up with new concepts,” says its proprietor Jose Enos.

In with the new

The reopening of the entertainment joints comes with new opportunities for some people.

Felix Odiwour aka Jalang’o will be launching a new club called Full Circle 254 on October 10 in Syokimau.

He told Spice, “Opening a club during this time is not easy and it is so unfortunate for the lovers of alcohol because leaving the club at 10pm is an injustice.

In fact, on a normal day we leave our homes at 10pm to go to the club. At the Full Circle though, we will focus on the guidelines issued by the government and most importantly, make sure patrons have enjoyed themselves in a safe environment.”

Among those working to ensure venues of all kinds can operate safely and securely is Pascal Omondi, the head of security at Milan Kenya, Blue Door and Memphis Bar, all in Nairobi. He however says they are currently focused more on the safety than security.

“During this time of the pandemic, things have changed. There are minimal fights or rowdy crowds; there are more responsible drinkers who are aware of what’s happening in the world. If you overdo it, then it’s upon us to take action,” he says.

Pascal, who is also the operations manager at Total Stewards Services Limited, adds that the only way to have a good time in the club at this moment is to strictly follow the set government guidelines.

“If we all cooperate it will be a friendly environment for both the workers and clients,” he says.

Since the closure of the bars, performing artistes have had the going getting tough. They are among the most relieved lot from the lifting of closure orders.

However, some are expressing concern that the joints have to shut the doors at 10pm, just about when the party should be starting.

“Normally, when an artiste is invited to perform at a club, the show usually starts on or slightly after midnight to end at around 3am.

So, the 10pm directive won’t be of so much help to us,” says singer Jovial, who urges the government to reconsider the fate of artistes and their art.

Genge artiste Mejja says that he is quite clueless about what the government has done, other than opening the clubs.

“We need proper guidelines; the clubs are now open, so what? We need to connect well with other fans whether it’s a club event or an open door venue.

The question here is, what happens to events held outdoors?” he poised.

Deejays on the other hand have tried adapting to the new set timelines. Charles Njoroge aka CNG The DJ says it’s a good thing that clubs have reopened and it’s about time we all embraced the new normal.

“For the party-goers, it will be about drinking and for us DJs, it will be to fully entertain.

By 4pm, the DJ will be already in the club rocking the party to beat the 10pm closing time,” he says.

Rodney Afande popularly known as DJ Nruff notes: “I think it’s important for businesses to open up, but with proper mechanisms and regulations set in place.

It’s also a collective effort between bar and club owners, and patrons to ensure they follow the set measures to avoid a second wave or even worse, a meltdown.

I’m glad the clubs are open, so that most of us who’ve been out of work for seven months now can finally go back and earn something.”

He adds that it’s a good move to open up the economy, but we must all act cautiously and responsibly, and take note of the risk that comes with this move.

On a DJ’s perspective, he intimates that deejays have been really patient with what has happened globally, but also there are lessons to be learnt from all the chaos.

“DJs have to be able to spread their wings far and wide and be super creative, so that if such a situation comes along they won’t be severely affected.

It shows how much everything is fragile and can disappear within the snap of a finger.

We need to be more innovative and such ideas like streaming live shows also helped cushion many of us from the harsh situation,” says Nruff.

He adds, “We are still not allowed by the government to throw all-night parties, but the phased reopening of the economy is a step in the right direction, and hopefully, we will get back to the normal schedule soon enough.

We’ve been patient and we have to work with what we have now to make up for what we lost.”

Secret is in planning

Joe Muchiri, a social commentator and influencer feels there’s still more that the government should have done.

He also adds that clubs now need to step up and find a suitable plan to keep clubbers entertained.

“Since the lockdown, I have always been vocal about the number of people who have lost jobs due to the closure of clubs.

However these joints need to be fully opened with proper guidelines put in place.

Bar owners should now step up and give us something fresh’ maybe a lot of day time events and such,” he says. 

With some clubs already open and receiving customers, others still cannot afford to reopen due to varied reasons.

Some club owners cite the losses accrued in the lockdown period has made it hard for them to return to work, having spent all their savings to service loans, pay rent and other bills. But whatever the case, the party is back!

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