Uganda Bar Owners and Owners of Entertainment places have asked the government to allow them to reopen with strict adherence to the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as prescribed by the Ministry of Health.
During a Press Conference they held in Kampala, where they also launched a facemask with a zipper called “munywa beer” which literally means “you drink beer,” Patrick Musinguzi the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Legit Bar Entertainment and Restaurant Owners Association said bars have the capacity to implement the required SOPs and protect its employees and customers from the COVID-19 pandemic and can, therefore, be opened with strict preconditions.
“We are aware that COVID-19 is serious and applaud President Yoweri Museveni and the government for the measures put in place to protect the lives of Ugandans.
“We realize that this epidemic is not ending soon. Our members wish to make a plea to government that we will do everything they require of us to keep customers safe when we are opened,” said Musinguzi.Musinguzi explained the SoPs they intend to implement in addition to those stipulated by the Ministry of Health.
-All patrons must wear face masks before admission.
-All patrons and staff must wash hands with soap/sanitizer provided by the outlet.
-Temperature of all patrons and staff will be checked using hand-held temperature guns; persons with a temperature above 37.8°C will be denied entry and handed over to the authorities.
-Registration of client details (names, telephone contact, temperature reading, and time of arrival) will be carried out for ease of tracing in case of a positive case who is discovered to have been at the outlet.
-Persons who decline to provide their details will be denied entry to the outlet.
-Bars will operate at 50% of normal capacity to allow sufficient social distancing and crowd control.
-Outdoor seating will be encouraged over indoor seating.
-No usage of air-conditioning.
-No loud music shall be played to avoid clients having to shout when talking.
-A 2-meter distance will be observed between tables.
-All surfaces including tables, chairs, and counters will be sanitized before clients sit and after they leave.
-All bar staff will always wear face masks.
-Cashless transactions will be encouraged.
-Management of all bars shall ensure the availability of sufficient security to evict non-complying clients.
-Curfew hours shall be respected by all outlets and all bars will close at 8:00 pm to allow sufficient time for clients to travel home before 9:00 pm.
George Waiswa, the Association Secretary-General, said bars and restaurants remain one of the biggest employers of youths in this country with over 2 million people employed as cleaners, bouncers, service people, chefs, accountants, store people, security, and over 2.5 million people in the supply chain.
Bars are a key player in the hospitality industry which sustains over 6.3 million people in the form of a ripple effect to manufacturers, grain farmers, contracted distributors and stockers, plus all their beneficiaries.
“All these people are now suffering. Their families are suffering because they are out of work. Most don’t have any other skill. It’s a risk for our young generation who constitute the biggest percentage of our employees. This is especially a challenge for some of the females who are single parents,” he added.
The Association Vice Chairman, Robert Ssemwogerere, intimated that the entertainment industry is a multi-trillion shilling business as a major channel for breweries and beverage companies whose drop in sales has gravely affected taxation.
“Bars sell over 6 trillion shillings in beer, soda, and spirits all of which are taxed. The continued closure is a major blow not only to the bars but also tax collections and the whole hospitality industry including tourism. It also puts at risk the fringe beneficiaries of the industry like poultry, dairy, Sorghum/Barley/Cassava, roadside food vending, boda boda, special hire (taxi)services. It’s a big value chain now in jeopardy.”
The Association Chairman, Tesfalem Ghirathu, said, “The situation is also dire for bar owners whose rent is overdue, the stock is fast expiring, premises and equipment [are] getting damaged while loan interest payments are piling up.
“We don’t know whether, after more than 7 months of closure, we will be able to open. Most will be closed forever as landlords have now confiscated our properties.”
The bar and restaurant owners have promised to support government in implementing all SOPs set for them.
Barbra Natukunda said: “We have invested a lot to buy all necessary equipment including full body sanitizers, changed furniture to allow for disinfection, etc.
“Even better than restaurants, markets, arcades, and salons that are already open, bars have [the] capacity to enforce adherence to the SOPs by organizing a committee amongst themselves that will work with police and local authorities to monitor all bars and ensure the guidelines are observed.”
Since the lockdown on March 21 following the COVID-19 pandemic, bars have remained closed with the President adamant that the sobriety of patrons cannot allow them to observe social distancing.
Cumulative COVID-19 cases stand at 6,463 with 63 deaths so far recorded, according to the Ministry of Health.