Alcohol distributors call for reopening of bars

The wholesalers, retailers and distributors of alcoholic beverages have asked government to allow bars to operate across the country, with strict observance to the COVID-19 public health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The distributors, led by Herbert Tumwesigye of Great Lakes Regional Distributors, Herbert Kamuntu of Kachain Logistics (Nile Breweries Distributor), and Seruta Godfrey of Premier Distributors (spirits distributors) said the prolonged closure of bar businesses has forced operators to operate illegally.

“On behalf of all distributors and retailers of beverages in Uganda, we are here today to discuss the prolonged closure of bar businesses and the impact it has had on us, as key players in the value chain,” the director of Great lakes distributors Herbert Tumwesigye said.

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“We are here today to represent a total of 120 business enterprises focusing on beer distribution countrywide who together, provide employment to 1,800 Ugandans with an estimated 9,000 dependents. This number is even higher with spirits distributors which account for over 1,000 businesses and tens of thousands of employees and dependents.” he said

They say the closure has led to loss of revenues of up to Shs550 billion and are facing increased difficulty in meeting the credit and tax obligations.

“The continued closure of bars has had severe impact on our businesses leading to revenues of up to UGX550 billion being wiped out. This situation continues to escalate as the bar closure drags on for more months. We find ourselves in a situation where we face increased difficulty in meeting our credit and tax obligations,” Tumwesigye said.

The alcoholic beverages industry consists of an eco-system, of which distributors and retailers are part. The companies have been forced to downsize and make the painful decision to lay off employees which is contributing to the national unemployment burden.

“We are therefore requesting government consideration to re-open bars and clubs across the country, with strict observance to COVID-19 public health standard operating procedures,” they emphasized.

The continued closure of bars by the government is posing more health risks to Ugandans as a number of bar operators have decided to operate illegally, according to the beverage distributors.

In their plea, the operators pledged to abide by the SOPs for the health safety of their customers. On top of the SOPs set by the Health Ministry, the operators pledged more measures including closing their businesses by 8pm to enable their patrons to beat curfew time.

As distributors and retailers of beverages, business significantly depends on supplying and distributing to bars and night clubs, whose businesses remain closed.

Early this month, the Minister for Health Jane Ruth Acheng said that for now, bars will still considered risky, saying that attempt to reopen the industry, will only cause a surge in new Covid-19 cases.