The ongoing crackdown on unlicensed liquor outlets in Kirinyaga county has been intensified with the multi-agency team extending the operation to trading centres.
This comes as a section of bar operators in Kianyaga town supported the county government in its effort to enforce the County Liquor License Act.
The operators said they had already paid for the licences and asked the multi-agency team conducting the operation to ensure no trader is operating without licence.
They said payment of taxes is a statutory obligation that no business can run away from.
“When we pay for the licences, this money doesn't go into any individual’s pocket. The County Government uses this revenue to maintain our roads and to equip our hospitals with much needed medicine. Therefore, let us not fight the efforts of the County Government but instead, let us support them. Paying dues dates back as far as the Biblical times when Jesus said “Give unto Caesar what belongs to him,” said Mugo Gikombe, one of the bar owners.
Over 500 bar operators have already paid for their licences with long queues being reported in revenue offices across all the sub-counties on Monday.
County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Sports, Culture and Social Services Dennis Muciimi said over 60 outlets have been shut down and owners charged in Court for selling alcoholic drinks without licences.
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.
“We have intensified inspection of all liquor outlets to ensure compliance, no outlet will be allowed to sell sun-standard alcoholic drinks or operate without the necessary licences including the medical certificates for staff,” he said.
Ciiru wa Ciana, another bar outlet owner, said traders in the town were in full support of the initiative for businesses to pay due taxes without politicising the exercise.
“During the Covid-19 period, the county government gave us a one-year waiver, we sold more alcohol than before. We must reciprocate by ensuring we comply with the law,” she said.
Muciimi said Kirinyaga has 2200 liquor outlets out of which 1600 have been inspected and approved to pay prescribed fees and continue with operations.
Approval for the other 600 has been put on hold pending further inspection of the liquor premises.
“We are working hard to ensure we protect consumers of alcoholic drinks by ensuring fair and ethical business practices related to production, distribution, promotion and sale of alcoholic drinks, that is why before we insure you with a licence we must inspect your outlet,” said Muciimi.
He said no alcoholic outlets will be allowed near schools, places of worship and in residential areas.
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 honour 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 licences levies, urging that bar owners must pay up their unpaid levies if they want to continue operating.