Joy as night economy reopens

Revellers play pool at Ryans Bar on Namugongo Road in Wakiso District yesterday. Photo / Isaac Kasamani

What you need to know:

  •  In Soroti City, Mr James Okello, the Pamba Ward chairperson, said most of the bars and clubs have been operating illegally even before the night economy was reopened.

It was a bee-hive of activity at various bars and entertainment centres across the country as proprietors prepared to reopen business after nearly two years of closure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

This follows the full reopening of the economy yesterday.

Government, however, asked the proprietors to observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

 In Masaka, billboards are being erected all over the city announcing concerts and musical events.

However, some bars and nightclubs, especially those owned by high-ranking government officials have been operating secretly during the lockdown.

Others resumed normal operations on New Year’s Eve when President Museveni announced that nightclubs and bars would officially reopen on January 24.

Dorris Discotheque in Masaka opened on Sunday with a show that featured a number of top DJs.

“Our boss has used the lockdown to upgrade the discotheque and we are ready to entertain revellers,” Mr James Mubiru, an employee, said.

 Mr Innocent Muzeeyi of MJ Bar and Restaurant in Masaka, said:  “We are happy that the economy is fully reopened and we hope to make money and pay some loans.”

 In Soroti City, Mr James Okello, the Pamba Ward chairperson, said most of the bars and clubs have been operating illegally even before the night economy was reopened.

 Mr Stephen Okedi, a bouncer at Thunder in Soroti City, said: “It’s time to make a little cash now that the clubs have started operating.”

In Fort Portal City, renovations were underway at Afrikana Sports Bar yesterday as they prepared to reopen.

Mr Kenneth Tugume, a worker at the bar, said: “We shall reopen on February 2. By that time, we shall have completed the renovation.”

Ms Beatrice Karungi, the proprietor of Karungi Bar, said: “I have restalked the bar but since morning I have not seen customers and those who came around say they don’t have money.”

In Masindi, Mr Lawrence Dita, the owner of D9 Club, said: “During the lockdown, I decided to shift my club to a new place on Kampala Road. I have all the SOPs in place and I have told my customers to also observe them.”

In Gulu, security operatives and the Covid-19 district taskforce yesterday morning inspected the bars and other public areas to ensure that they are observing the SOPs.

Mr Denis Odongpiny, the Gulu Resident City Commissioner, said no arrests were made.

Mr Odongpiny added that security will continue with night patrols to ensure that the Covid-19 protocols are observed.

Mr Denis Papa, the proprietor of West-gate Extreme Pub Malaba in Tororo, said: “I have hand washing facilities, sanitisers, and facemasks that I will provide to my customers because I need them alive rather than dead because they are my bosses.”

In Kabale Town, there are mixed feelings regarding the full reopening of the economy.

While some people say the reopening will boost their businesses, others feel the existing economic hardships that originated from the Covid-19-induced lockdown will not allow the business to boom.

“There is nothing to celebrate because our customers were heavily affected by the two-year lockdown,” Mr Barnabas Musimenta, the owner of Royal Pub in Kabale Town, said.

In Mbarara, the owner of Desert Lounge, Mr Mark Rugyenza, said: “We are so excited and we are ready to serve our customers.”

 Mr Fred Kafoko, the owner of Vision Empire in Mbarara, said: “We are now demarcating the place where people can sit comfortably without congestion.” 

In Lira City and Apac Town, bars and nightclub owners say they are prepared to reopen

At 146 Pub in Apac Municipality, Mr Ambrose Okello, the managing director, said he used the lockdown to improve his facilities.

“I now have two wings; the VIP wing with air conditioning and an ordinary wing. We are very ready to stage big shows,” he said.

Mr Patrick Okwir, the manager of Lion Hotel & Bar, said: “Now that the government has allowed us to resume work, we have all kinds of drinks in stock and our security is well organised to deal with any terror threats.”

In West Nile Sub-region, Mr Isaac Monyeka, an artiste in Koboko Municipality, said: “We are happy that the economy is fully reopened today. It has not been easy for us in the entertainment industry where we could neither perform nor organise shows.”

Kampala

At Moto Moto Lounge in Ggaba, revellers had started trickling in as early as 4pm.

The administrator, who only introduced himself as Joseph, said they had no worries about attendance since many people kept checking to inquire whether the bar would open.

“Unlike most bars in Kampala, here in Ggaba, our customers are our neighbours who don’t need boda bodas to return home. They can walk in and leave at anytime,” he said.

In Kansanga and Kabalagala the mood was normal with some bars not opening due to delayed renovations, including Capital Pub.

However, hangouts including Dukem, Sambelino, Kachichi and Nomads were receiving clients.

Roadside food vendors also returned to the streets.

Musician Mesach Ssemakula’s Papa Spot has been operating throughout the lockdown. However, it was the washing bay and the restaurant that were always open.

Mr Ssemakula said: “There is no more tension at Papa’s Spot. We don’t have any special arrangement on the day of the opening. Our main event is on Valentine’s Day. We are just going to have deejays play music. I always want to be sure with what I do. I don’t go by excitement. I want to deliver at my best.”

 At Vox Lounge in Makindye, Mr Deo Matovu, the manager, said they were anticipating a huge turn up of revellers.

“We did sound testing on Sunday evening but people started coming in and within no time the place was full. We, therefore, decided to add extra chairs and tables today, bring in more screens and speakers,” he said.

Background

In March 2020, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Museveni instituted a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Government reopened parts of the economy on June 4, 2020, which included allowing public transport to resume but only carry half the number of passengers and candidate classes and finalists were allowed to return to school and sit for exmas.

However, on June 18, 2021, government imposed a second lockdown due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

In October 2020, President Museveni announced that come January 2022, the economy would reopen.

Compiled by Bill Oketch, Simon Peter Emwamu, Santo Ojok, Alex Ashaba, Ismail Bategeka, Tobbias Jolly Owiny, Joseph Omollo, Robert Muhereza, Felix Ainebyoona, Robert Elema, Richard Kyanjo. Rashul Adidi, Andrew Kaggwa, Isaac Ssejjombwe, & Gabriel Buule

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