House parties are new alcohol dens

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Police arrest teenage revellers caught partying in a house in Nairobi’s Jamhuri estate, in April, 2020. Photo/PD/FILE

Monica Kagia, Reuben Mwambingu and Roy Lumbe

When President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a 30-day ban on sale of alcohol in eateries and restaurants across the country as part of response towards Covid-19 pandemic, the  government’s hope was that the directive would reduce the rate of infections by minimising social gatherings.

But while the directive could have succeeded in reducing social interractions in bars and restaurants, the move might not stop such gatherings, which have now shifted to house parties in estates, especially in major towns across the country.

In Mombasa, the closure of bars and restricted movement during the curfew hours appears to have given a lifeline to the seemingly livelier house parties.

In some estates such as Bamburi, Nyali, and Mtwapa where nightlife is more pronounced, loud music emanating from two nightclubs rents the air, especially during weekends.

Thriving culture

“I have attended more than four house parties in Bamburi during this curfew period and I can tell you for free that they are so well organised, considering that most cops own the wines and spirits outlets, some of the people who supply us with booze are well connected people and therefore, it is practically impossible to expect anyone to get caught,” says a resident of Kiembeni.

While the president has tasked the National Police Service to enforce the directive, what the government may not be aware of is the fact that some of the officers frequent these parties, inadvertently guaranteeing the law breakers the much needed security.

 With the “assured security of the officers”, the parties go on uninterrupted with absolute impunity according to multiple sources.

While Kisauni Sub-County Police Commander Julius Kiragu maintains that police have on several occasions responded to complaints about the parties, he denied any involvement of police officers in such gatherings.

“The deejays host live music sessions and are attended even by police officers in civilian clothes. Not once or twice, but regularly,” explains a resident of Bamburi.

Besides the house parties, in some cases, bars are secretly opened to allow clients who are served alcohol on disposable take away paper tumblers, which are then wrapped in a brown envelope to conceal the content. 

“Even yesterday (Tuesday) we were served keg beer in a local restaurant. It is done in a very clever way such that it is difficult for anyone to even notice that you are carrying or taking alcohol.

The drink looks like apple juice,” explained Pius Nchiru, a resident of Kiembeni.

Also thriving behind the backs of authorities is the sale of the traditional mnazi brew. 

 In Nakuru, bar owners have been forced to change tact to remain afloat. With many hotels having laid off a number of its workers due to the harsh economic times, some have opted to close shop completely to avoid losses. 

At the heart of Nakuru’s Central Business District, the Tas Hotel has been forced to convert part of its nightclub hall into a church in a bid to create more revenue. 

According to the facility’s proprietor of Paul Kinyuru, tough times have forced them to become more creative and source funds to cushion his business from a total collapse. 

Job losses

Having invested more than Sh25 million in the facility, Kinyuru lamented that he was only able to retain at least five staff in the hotel section. 

Kinyuru notes that with the current ban on selling alcohol in eateries, the move has really affected them negatively noting that millions of shillings worth of the business now remains desolate. 

He says he has leased the nightclub hall to a Christian outfit, Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church in a bid to secure some few coins for operations. 

At the facility yard, Kinyuru has turned the place into a workshop making hospital beds, grills and water handwashing dispensers which he sells to other eateries within the county. 

“If you want to survive, you must be creative, I was left with no option but to diversify my business as one way to make money, things are thick for the hotel industry,” says Kinyuru.

Apostle Jeff Bula, the lead pastor at ECG, says once the government allowed resumption of church operations, they decided to lease the nightclub in a bid to commence worship. 

The conversion of the nightclub to a church, he says, is one way of spreading the gospel and that congregants are not worried of the surrounding. 

He, however, acknowledged that the pandemic has affected a number of businesses within the county. 

“We are slowly renovating and currently removing the writings and club inscriptions on the wall. Gospel must continue and it does not matter where we do it from,” says Bula.

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