The Bar Owners Association has made a plea to the government to open up bars for resumption of business in light of the country’s state of affairs. This sector contributes a whooping UGX.2.1Tn to the national revenue. A totality of UGX.1.1Tn has been lost by bar owners during this lockdown. That’s a sum worth fretting about!
In the plea presented by the Chairman of Bar Owner’s Association, Gheratgu Tesfalem, a pledge is made to adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Ministry of Health. However, how viable is this pledge?
First, let’s consider the nature of SOP’s and the modus operandiof a bar. Some of these SOP’s would make the operation of a bar incomprehensible if they are to be followed. I’ll consider the basic SOP that would affect the nature of business in a bar and perhaps the reason people love them.
The 2mtr social distance rule! Before any further considerations are made, first note that this SOP has been violated around all corners of the country. Perhaps even in the NRM, only Y.K. Museveni adheres to it; as we may see from other party members’ campaigns that they’ve never heard of such a thing as social distancing. I digress! The issue is that observing such an SOP would be rendered impossible – in honesty only improbable – by the nature of a bar environment.
Consider first that people who frequent bars are not there for the beer per se. They are there for the company – sometimes intimate – of peers. For them, the desire of being out in a bar is slain by the requirement to conduct themselves in a manner akin to courtship in the African Traditional Society.
Rather stay home than ‘enjoy’ the dead ambience of a bar. Perhaps I should note that some bars, if not most, have restaurants in them; these were opened up months back. On this end of it, these are making something, albeit peanuts compared to their true income.
Further, the bar clientele is not one to fear for their lives, especially after a great deal of support has been evinced through the magnanimous purchase and consumption of the bar-renown commodity.
At such a time, as any person that’s been around one whose mind is inundated in liquor knows, these people know themselves to be the Solomonsof the latter day. They know what’s good for the universe and have the most impressive ideas of how to achieve it. These crowds are uncontrollable. It is due to this that the possibility of observing social distance becomes inconceivable.
As for the other SOP’s, if we disregard the incorrigibility of a reasonably drunk human, they are achievable. I need not delve into them lest I digress a second time.
A Twitter user – @PatriqKanyomozi – noted, when the President alluded to bars remaining closed, that perhaps the bars he’d referred to were bars of soap; seeing as the others had already resumed operation in incognito mode.
Nonetheless, as I blindly regard that to be conjecture and not factual, I’ll come to the heart of the matter; is it viable to open up bars? I think, to conclude on this, I’ll consider other sectors of the economy that have been opened for operation.
The arcades are some of the areas one may consider when they think of a bar, with regard to environment. The congestion in those downtown areas reflects a presumable inexistence of Covid19.
For business owners in those areas, there is no such thing as the ‘new normal’! When one observes keenly, it may seem that the people are not well versed with how a mask should be effectively used. You see, they use the masks to cover their chins instead of the mouths and noses. That area is a hotspot for spreading the virus, yet it has been operating for many months now.
The markets are not any better. They involve more bodily contact than you’ll see in any other area; at least the few that I’ve been to since the loosening of the restrictions.
I’ll cut to the chase. The only businesses that are adhering, as strictly as is managable, to the SOP’s are high-end businesses. To paint it clearer, I’m talking of bank halls, shopping malls and businesses in which government has an interest.
I do not think that the bar environment is capable of observing SOP’s; there is no need to be dishonest about it! However, is this a justifiable cause to keep them closed? It has been shown that most businesses are not observing SOP’s and these have not been shut down for it. Heck, the NRM campaigners are some of the biggest violators of these SOP’s; doing so with an enviable edge of arrogance.
Also, it is important to view bars in light of their proprietors. Bars are not a one-dimensional aspect of the economy. As I have noted at the beginning, these accumulate, in totality, an enviable sum of UGX.2.1Tn annually. There are beneficiaries, aside from government, of this sum.
Bar owners, as any other business proprietor, have families to feed and children to educate. They have relatives for whom they have been breadwinners. Some of these relatives need that money more than ever in consideration of the days they’ve spent without income. Their premises also have to be paid for, just as any other business. Like the teachers, they need to regain their ability to earn.
When one considers that the cumulative figure of Covid19 infections stands at nearly 16,000 people with close to 5,000 active cases, the President’s failure to act on this reflects a kind of resignation. He seems to have taken up Magufuli’s concept.
I am not an expert adviser! Nevertheless, I find that given the circumstances and undeniable state of affairs regarding the open businesses, there is no justifiable cause for protracting the closure of bars. It seems, to my meagre understanding, that either the economy should be fully open or, restrictions should be equally and equitably applied.
I ask not to be misconstrued! I do not say that it is right for bars to be opened. Yet, I think that because other sectors have been opened, bar owners are struggling with keeping afloat. This is more so in light of their landlords and their insatiable appetites. Such facts have placed bar owners in a position that requires them to be operational. They need the income.
Perhaps, the President should consider the recommendation of one of his envied advisers, Bebe Cool. The curfew should be extended to mid-night and bars should be allowed to operate till then. Bars are not autonomous economic persons, they are managed by people who must make ends meet.
- Joel Kenneth Ndawula is a Student of Law at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. He is an inspired writer, the editor and author here; a blogger of sorts.
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