Bar and restaurant owners have appealed to the President to allow them resume operations, saying they have lost billions of shillings following the lockdown.
The group, through their Legit Bar, Entertainment and Restaurant Owners Association (LeBRA), met yesterday in Kampala to consolidate their grievances and negotiations.
Mr George Waiswa, the association general secretary, said bars and restaurants employ more than two million Ugandans and another 2.5 million people in the supply chain, who have all been laid off due to the lockdown.
“All these people are now suffering; their families are suffering because they are out of work. Most don’t have any other skill. This is a risk for our young generation who constitute the biggest percentage of our employees,” Mr Waiswa said. The association chairperson, Mr Tesfalem Ghirathu, said 6,000 bars have lost more than Shs2 trillion in business since the lockdown started in March, and will continue to suffer huge losses if the President does not reconsider their plight and allow them resume operations.
“The situation is dire for bar owners whose rent is overdue; stock is fast expiring, premises and equipment are getting damaged while loan interest payments are piling. We don’t know whether after seven months of closure we will be able to reopen,” Mr Ghirathu said.
In his latest national address on the Covid-19 situation on Sunday, President Museveni said bars would remain closed because the drinkers are not known to be sober to observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising or hand washing to control the spread of the pandemic.
However, Mr Robert Ssemwogerere, the vice chairperson of LeBRA, insisted bars are able to control their customers.
“The President has a misconception about bars; not everyone who is in a bar is a drunkard. There are different things that take people in bars. Even though the drunkards are there, we have security and have even increased it so as to evict those that don’t comply with the SOPs put in place,” he said.
Ms Babra Natukunda, the owner of Texas Lounge Nsambya, requested the President to give bar owners loans to help them pay rent arrears and start other businesses.
“Bars have been an advantage to us who are not educated. I am a single mother of six. Since March I have been struggling to take care of these children. We request that if the President can’t open bars now, let him give us loans like the teachers so that we can start up other businesses for survival,” Ms Natukunda said.
The bar owners said the SOPs they have put in place include wearing masks, no dancing, no loud music, operating at 50 per cent of normal capacity, registration of all customers, two-meter distance between the drinking tables and increased security to evict non-complying clients.