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Liquor traders blast Sakaja over high taxes

The Bar Hotels & Liquor Traders Association of Kenya (BAHLITA) has raised the alarm over the Nairobi Finance Bill recently signed into law by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja.

Bahlita claims the county boss is trying to kill the alcoholic beverages sector and harm the hospitality industry as a whole by increasing the licence fee.

According to the association’s national chairman Simon Njoroge and Secretary General Boniface Gachoka, the new bills will hurt their businesses.

“We have been angered by Sakaja here in Nairobi because of the increase in license fee despite the public participation. The result will be an increase in the consumption of illicit alcohol because of the restrictions on formal alcohol, and this leads to loss of jobs,” Mr Gachoka said.

They have now vowed to seek the court’s intervention as they protest against the Nairobi County government’s move to double the licence fees for selling alcohol in the capital, introduced through the Finance Act, of 2023.

Bahlita argues that most of the controversial provisions in the county bills contravene the existing Alcoholic Beverages Control Act at the national level, popularly known as the Mututho Law.

“Licenses have gone up by 300 percent. Those of us who don’t make chang’aa will have to sack our employees, where will they take their children.”

The lobby group noted that the Nyeri bill, titled The Nyeri County Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2023, which is currently undergoing public participation, and a similar bill in the Meru County Assembly were drafted with the backing of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who has been leading the fight against alcoholism in the country, with a focus on the Mt Kenya region.

They are claiming that the bar operators however argued that the proposed law is overzealous and overreaching and will kill rather than control a sector that employs thousands of people in the country.

The association further pointed out that the proposed ban on the transportation of alcohol using boda-bodas, transportation at night, and the restriction on bar opening times amounts to an onslaught on the sector.

The bar owners have also vowed to go to court to protest against the Nairobi County Government’s move to double the license fees to sell alcohol in the capital city introduced through the Finance Act, of 2023.

Bahlita argues that the majority of the contentious provisions in the county Bills run counter to the existing Alcoholic Drinks Control Act at the national level popularly known as the Mututho Law.

Bahlita said it was apprehensive that public participation in the counties could be used to meet the requirement on paper without any real impact on the proposed law.

According to them, the bills seek to restrict the sale of alcohol to take home, introduce alcohol-free zones, and restrict the sale of alcohol by wines and spirits shops outside designated areas and in hotels.

They added that the bills seek to bar the sale of alcohol to “intoxicated persons” but the operators and other players argue that the provision is vague as judging whether a person is intoxicated is not accurate.

The association stated that the bills seek to restrict alcohol sales in supermarkets to between 5pm and 9pm and in hotels and lodgings and members’ clubs to between 1pm and 11pm.

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