Lockdown: Over 100 bar owners change business

 Big Zone Restaurant in premises that were previously occupied by Big Zone Bar in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

  • The bar proprietors say they were already choking on loans and rent arrears due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown. 

At least 100 bar owners in Kampala Metropolitan area have changed business due to the prolonged government shutdown over the Covid-19 pandemic.

On March 18, 2020, President Museveni imposed the first lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, directing, among others, all bars and entertainment centres to close.

Since then, the bars are still closed although some other businesses have since been reopened.
Mr George Pambason, the secretary general of Legit Bar Owners Association, says more than 100 bar owners have changed business because they were stuck with bank loans, rent arrears and utility bills plus payment of workers.

He, however, says the bar owners have had engagements with the government about possible assistance.
“We have expressed our grievances to them and we hope that with time the government shall consider us as well,” Mr Pambason says.

“We now have the issues with the landlords because of the accumulated rent arrears, the landlords now don’t want to know that we have been in lockdown. We have also requested the Uganda Law Society to provide us with the legal definition of the lockdown so that we can present it before Parliament and government can talk to land lords,” he adds.

Mr Pambason says the lockdown has affected 60,000 registered bars countrywide, leaving an unspecified number of employees unemployed.

Mr Medard Rugubwa, aka Younger, the proprietor of Big Zone Entertainment Centre in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District, says the lockdown has affected him financially.

“Here at Big Zone, I lost my bouncer because he lost the job and he failed to maintain himself in Kampala. Because of pressure and debts, he ended up being hospitalised and eventually died,” Mr Rugubwa says.

“As Legit association, we lost three prominent businessmen in the industry who were the owners of Happy Boys Bar in Namasuba and Nexus Bar in Najera,” he adds.

Mr Rugubwa, who also doubles as public relations officer for the bar owners association, says he has also changed the business.

“Before the lockdown, my bar was doing well with very many clients because I also used to host musicians. On special days such as Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I could make sales of Shs10 million per day. Then I also cater for more than 100 people who were my employees, but since the lockdown, everything went down,” he adds.

A retail shop in the premises previously occupied by Vision Congo Bar in Kabalagala, Makindye Division. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

Mr Rugubwa said he has rent arrears of Shs125 million and a bank mortgage of Shs1.2 billion.
“My music system and other machines have been destroyed, including a number of television sets. Therefore, I don’t know whether I shall recover. This situation has forced me to start a mini restaurant and a boutique so that I can also survive,” he explains.

He adds that by the time the lockdown was imposed last year, his bar had a stock of Shs150 million, which all went to waste.

“I used part of my stock to feed some of the employees so that they can keep the place. Part of the stock was sold to supermarkets cheaply and others were damaged since they were not long life products,” he adds.

Asked which of the bar and restaurant business is more profitable, Mr Rugubwa says: “Me I know the bar business very well. So I have found running restaurant business very challenging to the extent that I can’t even get 10 customers a day.”

“But because I have no choice, I am hanging in there for survival as we hope for the best in future,” he adds.
Mr Bruce Kiggundu, the manager of LA Breeze Bar in Nakulabye, Rubaga Division, says when the lockdown started, he could not sustain running the business anymore because he had many loans.

“When we were put in lockdown, my boss told me to look for some people who can buy the available stock and we leave the place. We sold the stock cheaply and left the business. Currently it is called Nakulabye Furniture Centre,” he says.

Mr Denis Kaka, the manager of Vision Congo in Kabalagala, Makindye Division, says the business was owned by two Congolese nationals. 

“Within the last days of the first lockdown, one of my bosses called me and told me to sell the stock, I looked for clients to sell the stock,” he says.

“For almost a week, I failed to get buys until I got a client who wanted to start a shop in Ggaba and I sold him the fridge with drinks at a cheap price, the counters remained, the chairs and other things. When my boss received that money, they went back home, all the remaining stock was retained by the landlord because they had rent arrears,” he adds.

A retail shop in the premises previously occupied by Vision Congo Bar in Kabalagala, Makindye Division. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

Mr Kaka also says the Congolese owners of the neighbouring Sheli Bar, and Bat Log Bar sold off the businesses.
“Where Vision Congo was, now there is a boutique, where Sheli Bar was there is also a boutique and where there was Bat Log Bar, there is a saloon,” he adds.

Daily Monitor has established that Native Lounge and Dodi Dodi bar, all based in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District, also changed to a supermarket and  wholesale shop, respectively.

Mr Rugubwa urged the government to consider allowing their industry to reopen because they can observe the standard operating procedures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.


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