Bars, clubs, hotels have suffer closures due to Covid-19 pandemic

Monday, February 1st, 2021 00:00 |
Mojos Lounge and Bar. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Whilst bars, clubs and hotels have suffered closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some have managed to stay afloat despite the many challenges. George Onyango takes a look at how such facilities are surviving the harsh times

Before the onset of the novel coronavirus crisis in Kenya, the entertainment business was booming.

Particularly, the entertainment spots (bars, nightclubs and hotels) in the country’s major urban centres have gone through a tumultuous period, with many folding and thus rendering many people jobless.

These misfortunes have had extreme negative impacts on the economic and social lives of Kenyans.

In Nairobi, for instance, popular club such as Moody’s, Charlie’s Bistro, Tribeka, Mojos and K-Club, as well as big hotels including The Norfolk, Intercontinental and Crowne Plaza. The list is endless.

“The strict Covid-19 requirements and the temporary closure of flights to and from Europe and the rest of the world, made it impossible for us to keep up with the business,” says a manager of one of the closed outfits who sought anonymity.

These developments have seen loss of millions of jobs in the entertainment and hospitality sectors with the lucky ones being sent on unpaid leave or forced to take massive pay-cuts.

But some establishments have stayed afloat albeit diminished numbers occasioned by strict social distancing protocols. 

One of such joints is Gallileo Lounge, which is tucked somewhere between Westlands downtown and the newly constructed JW Marriot Hotels in Nairobi.

On Sunday afternoons, for instance, it is normal to see revellers trickling into the club to while away time with some country music tunes courtesy of the baritoned country music maestro Sir Elvis.

This legendary entertainment behemoth is just one of the few restaurants that has stood strong amidst all the closures of its peers across the city.

With the social distancing measure still in force in such public premises, the club’s manager Kennedy Abong’o intimates that with such measures becoming the new normal in all clubs, standard procedures must be observed before anyone could make their way into the premises.

At the main entrance, it’s mandatory for all the patrons to sanitise their hands and have their temperatures checked.

Any suspected case of infection is flagged. Also, nobody, even the managers and other staff, is allowed in without a facemask.

This, he says, is to make the joint a safe place for all and to keep with the set rules by the Health ministry.

“I am grateful that we have at least this place operating. I don’t know what I would do without the relaxing country music by Sir Elvis.

Life would be so traumatising for me,” says Leah Njeri, who patronises the club with a couple of friends.

And when Elvis starts on their favourite number Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, they all take to the stage and give a real gyrating treat that it deserves.

“I am truly happy that we came back to life because we didn’t get to perform between March and September of 2020, and it was very difficult for us,” Sir Elvis tells Spice, intimating the period was very stressful to him because singing is part and parcel of his everyday life.

New tactics

Gallileo, has however, made to employ a few new tacts to survive through the difficult times.

It’s been forced to retweak the menu to suit the live events that have become synonymous with it including live Rhumba nights on Fridays and Mugithi nights on Saturdays.

Jeff Kagwaa hosts the mugithi night and carries along the revellers as he hems the repertoire of the music of the live band with lead vocalist Kariuki Kiarutara.

“I love live music and these guys can play very well. And the Kikuyu music is a good way to connect to the roots. I am glad such events are back,” says reveller Joseph Karogo.

According to Abonyo, the restaurant has introduced incentives including slashing the prices on all the meals to accommodate the general reduced disposable incomes among its customers.

“We also have offers of free mbuzi when someone pulls a mzinga,” he says, adding that he’s optimistic the showbiz will pick up this year, especially with the diminishing coronavirus cases and the discovery of vaccines across the globe.

Elizabeth Mungai, the director at the newly opened Hermosa Garden Hotel in Karen, Nairobi, shares his sentiments saying: “Coronavirus is here with us and we can only learn to live with it.

We just observe Covid-19 protocols and make sure we tap into the domestic market and voila! We are ready to go.”

The facility, with some century-old indigenous trees, that has become a favourite nesting space for many tropical bird species, which has turned it a bird-watching haven for many fun lovers.

“Kenyans are known to be resilient people, and we remain optimistic that the economy will pick up again and propel the hospitality and entertainment industries to great heights.

All we need to achieve this is the self-belief and total cooperation and goodwill from all the stakeholders,” Mungai says in conclusion.

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