Businesses bore the brunt of the ongoing census at the weekend as they closed in compliance with a government directive to allow Kenyans participate in the week-long exercise.
Last week Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i ordered the closure of bars and other entertainment joints over the weekend for the National Population and Housing Census 2019.
This was to ensure that all people were at home for the exercise, which began on Saturday and will end on Friday.
Business owners on Sunday called on the government to allow those who had already participated in the exercise to open their premises.
The streets of Nairobi were unusually deserted on Saturday night as revellers stayed away, leaving nearly 3,900 alcohol outlets out of business.
In Mombasa, many businesses remained closed on Saturday night. Hotels and coffee shops in most parts of the port city remained empty.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers executive officer Sam Ikwaye lamented the directive. “Business is usually up in the weekends. The government directive was misinformed as we suffered losses,” he said.
Bars in Bamburi, Nyali and Mtwapa, where there is usually an active night life, were closed by 7pm. It was the same story in Kisii, Eldoret, Vihiga, Kakamega, Siaya and Busia.
Mr Moses Mutethia, the manager of Dallas Inn in Kisii Town, said that on an ordinary Friday or Saturday night, the club makes a profit of between Sh40,000 to Sh50,000. On Saturday night, they made a paltry Sh500.
Mr Francis Kinuthia, a Lamu bar owner, said: “We’ve been counted and I don’t see the reason as to why we should continue closing down our businesses. We’ve suffered losses.”
At Neon Lounge, a famous joint in Eldoret, staff said that they usually make about Sh50,000 on weekends, but they made a paltry Sh10,000 over the weekend.
"We usually operate for 24 hours, but we are now forced to close at 5pm. We may have to lay off some workers if this trend continues," said Oliver Koech, the bar manager.
Kakamega traders agonised that the order came towards the end of the month.
In Vihiga, some businesses defied the directive, County Commissioner Mrs Susan Waweru said.
She said defiance was witnessed at Chavakali and Shamakhokho where entertainment joints remained open.
Mr Joseph Akuto, who runs a bar and restaurant in Bondo town, Siaya County, faulted the order. “A national exercise, however important, must not interfere with the economy," he said.
However, Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya (Abak) chairman Gordon Mutugi said as patriotic Kenyans, they complied to ensure the census was successful.
“This directive was to tell Kenyans to drink responsibly and although it really inconveniences us, we take it lightly as responsible citizens,” Mr Mutugi said.
A section of alcohol-lovers in the border county of Busia on Saturday flocked to neighbouring Uganda for take-away beers to quench their thirst.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that a section Kenyans have already bought some few bottles to sustain themselves for the period.
Nalongo Pub Manager Fatuma Hassan disclosed on Sunday that Kenyans have been purchasing at least 10 bottles as takeaways.
In the coastal area of Tudor, retail shops remained closed. Mr Brian Wachira, a resident, said a group of civilian officers dispersed the shop owners and buyers at around 9pm.
The matatu business was also affected as the roads remained empty with a few matatus in the night.
A matatu driver who identified himself as Mado said they had carried very few passengers on Saturday night.
Mr Ahmed Omar, a mangrove logger in Lamu Town, also asked the government to allow those who have been counted to continue with their logging business in the forest.
More than 30,000 families in Lamu depend on mangrove for their livelihood. “We depend on mangrove only for survival. We were counted since Saturday and I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be forced to remain jobless until the census is over.
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said no one has so far been arrested for breaching the order.
Reports by Anita Chepkoech, Benson Amadala, Dickens Wasonga, Gaetano Pessa, Josiah Odanga, Derick Luvega, Wycliffe Kipsang, Dennis Lubanga, Barnabas Bii, Oscar Kakai and Tom Matoke.