“The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic indeed affected our operations as bars and night club owners. I had six workers who depended on me for their survival and when we closed our operations due to the pandemic there was no other source of income.”
These are the words of Amideus Ng’andwe Muswala, a bar and nightclub owner in Lusaka, the Zambian capital.
The government closed bars and nightclubs in March following the outbreak of the pandemic as part of the measures to stop further spread of the pandemic.
Commenting on the partial reopening of bars and nightclubs announced by President Edgar Lungu last week, Muswala while welcoming the decision pointed out the negative effects left by the closure.
“When the bars closed, I had to get money from own savings in order to keep my six workers but I could not go on and so far I have lost two workers,” he said in an interview.
He said the partial reopening of bars and nightclubs has provided a sigh of relief although they will not be able to make money the way they used before the closure as they will only be operating from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m from Friday to Sunday.
On the decision by the country’s main brewer to launch a “Responsible Together Campaign” aimed at sensitizing bar and nightclubs to observe health guidelines following the removal of the restrictions, he said the decision was welcome as it is a relief aimed at allowing them to pick up in their businesses.
The brewer, Zambia Breweries Plc, is donating health preventive guidelines such as sanitizers, facemasks and handwashing buckets.
He noted that the bar and nightclub operators were ready to cooperate and observe the guidelines in order to contain the pandemic.
“Like in my bar, I have removed some chairs and tables to ensure social distancing,” he added.
Alvin Chipanda, another bar owner said the pandemic affected their businesses when they were told to close operations, sending workers into destitute.
He thanked the government for the partial lifting of the restriction, adding that this will provide some relief.
“It will help us take care of not only our families but other people who depend on us,” he said.
He welcomed the decision by the brewer to donate COVID-19 health kits, adding that it will go a long way in helping the operators.
Edmond Lifwekelo, secretary-general of the Bars and Nightclub Association of Zambia said the partial lifting of restrictions on bars and nightclubs is a step in the right direction following a slump in their businesses following the closure.
He said the industry was a huge provider of jobs for thousands of people in the country and about 47,000 of the association’s members were affected by the closure.
“At least it is a step in the right direction. We would have loved for a full closure, but this is good for us. The president has given a test which we must pass before allowing us to start full operations,” he said.
According to him, the collaboration with the brewer will provide a relief to the operators in the interim, adding that the onus is now on the operators to ensure responsibility in their operations.
Jose Daniel Moran, country director of Zambia Breweries said the brewer is happy to collaborate with bar and nightclub owners to ensure irresponsible use of alcohol during the COVID-19 period.
He said the company donated the COVID-19 preventive health kits to help the operators who are still struggling from the impact of the pandemic.