Dozens of Bar Operators nabbed in Kirinyaga during Crackdown on unlicensed Liquor outlets

Kirinyaga county government has launched a major crackdown on unlicensed liquor outlets and those selling illicit alcoholic drinks. Over 30 operators of the unlicensed bars were arrested and their outlets closed down during the start of the multi-agency operation which began on Wednesday.

County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Sports, Culture and Social Services Dennis Muciimi said the shutdown outlets will remain closed until owners comply with the County Alcoholic Drinks Control Act No. 3 of 2014 and all the requisite Regulations. “The purpose of this operation is to protect consumers of alcoholic drinks by ensuring fair and ethical business practices related to production, distribution, promotion and sale of alcoholic drinks,” said Muciimi. Muciimi said Kirinyaga has 2200 liquor outlets out of which 1600 have been inspected and approved to pay prescribed fee and continue with operations. “We have differed the approval of other 600 pending further inspection of the liquor premises. Inspections are inevitable as they also serve to prevent the sale of sub-standard alcoholic drinks to the consumers,” he added. He said 12 operators were arrested in Wanguru town, 12 in Ndia sub-county, four in Kirinya Central sub-county while the rest were nabbed in Gichugu.

County Executive Committee Member for Finance and Economic Planning Jackline Njogu asked bar owners to cooperate in paying necessary taxes because the county relies on revenue collected from businesses to fund construction and maintenance of roads, provision of health services and drugs, water among others. “What we are asking is for people to pay for their licenses, if all other businesses are paying taxes, liquor outlets are not exemptional. All must pay so that the government can continue offering services,” she said.

Governor Anne Waiguru has said that the county government will close down all unlicensed bars as well as those operating in residential areas. She said that the one-year relief that the county government had extended to cushion businesses, including bars, against Covid-19 had expired and it is time for bar owners to honor their part of the bargain and pay taxes. Waiguru noted that in the last three years, the county government had lost Ksh. 100 million from unpaid liquor licenses levies, urging that bar owners must pay up their unpaid levies if they want to continue operating.

Chairman of the County Liquor Licensing Committee James Kihia said the crackdown on bars selling booze without a licence will continue despite resistance from a section some activists. Kihia said the committee will not allow selling of illicit alcohol in the county and asked the operators not to politicize the exercise. He said there is no court order that prohibits county from inspection of liquor premises, liquor licensing and all that pertains regulation of liquor.

“We want to say that we are supporting Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and our Governor Anne Waiguru in their effort in the fight against illicit alcoholic drinks and drugs,” he added. A section of bar owners in Wanguru town asked the multi-agency team to enforce the liquor licencing regulations without fear or favour so as to wipe out those selling illicit alcohol. Catherine Gateri, one of the liquor outlet owners said sale of sub-standard booze is on the rise in Kirinyaga and this was affecting the youths with more getting trapped in addition.

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