Uganda bar owners and owners of entertainment places in the country have asked government to allow them to reopen with strict adherence to the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as prescribed by the Ministry of Health.
At a press conference held at the Atmosphere Lounge in Kololo yesterday, where they launched a facemask with a zipper called “munywa beer” which literally means “you drink beer,” the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for Legit Bar Entertainment and Restaurant Owners Association Mr. Patrick Musinguzi said that the bars have the capacity to implement the required SOPs and protect its employees and customers from the COVID-19 pandemic and can, therefore, be open with strict preconditions.
“We are aware that COVID-19 is serious and applaud President Yoweri Museveni and the government for the measures put in place to protect the lives of Ugandans. We realize that this epidemic is not ending soon. Our members wish to make a plea to government that we will do everything they require of us to keep customers safe when we are opened,” Mr. Musinguzi said.
The LEBRA PRO explained the SOPs which include:
George Waiswa, the association Secretary General, said bars and restaurants remain one of the biggest employers of youths in this country with over 2 million people employed as cleaners, bouncers, service people, chefs, accountants,
store people, security, and over 2.5 million people in the supply chain. Bars are a key player in the hospitality industry which sustains over 6.3 million people in the form of a ripple effect to manufacturers, grain farmers, contracted distributors and stockers, plus all their beneficiaries.
“All these people are now suffering. Their families are suffering, because they are out of work. Most don’t have any other skill. It’s a risk for our young generation who constitute the biggest percentage of our employees. This is especially a challenge for some of the females who are single parents,” he added.
The Vice Chairman, Mr. Robert Ssemwogerere, intimated that the entertainment industry is a multi-trillion shilling business as a major channel for breweries and beverage companies whose drop in sales has gravely affected taxation.
“Bars sell over 6 trillion shillings in beer, soda, and spirits all of which are taxed. The continued closure is a major blow not only to the bars but also tax collections and the whole hospitality industry including tourism. It also puts at risk the fringe beneficiaries of the industry like poultry, dairy, Sorghum/Barley/Cassava, roadside food vending, boda boda, special hire (taxi)services. It’s a big value chain now in jeopardy.”
The Chairman, Mr. Tesfalem Ghirathu, said, “The situation is also dire for bar owners whose rent is overdue, stock is fast expiring, premises and equipment [are] getting damaged while loan interest payments are piling up.
“We don’t know whether after more than 7 months of closure, we will be able to open. Most will be closed forever as landlords have now confiscated our properties.”
The bar and restaurant owners have promised to support government in implementing all SOPs set for them. Barbra Natukunda said: “We have invested a lot to buy all necessary equipment including full body sanitizers, changed furniture to allow for disinfection, etc. Even better than restaurants, markets, arcades, and salons that are already open, bars have [the] capacity to enforce adherence to the SOPs by organizing a committee amongst themselves that will work with police and local authorities to monitor all bars and ensure the guidelines are observed.”
Since the lockdown on March 21 following the COVID-19 pandemic, bars have remained closed with the President adamant that the sobriety of patrons cannot allow them to observe social distancing.
Cumulative COVID-19 cases stand at 6,463 with 63 deaths so far recorded, according to the Ministry of Health.