By The Weekly Vision Team
Operators of seven bars in Nakuru County can now breathe easy after Nakuru High Court Judge H.M. Nyaga, in a ruling dated December 22, 2023, quashed orders by the County Government of Nakuru for the closure of bars.
Bar operators Samuel Kingori Mwaura, Shem Dennis, Mirriam Wanjiku, Kennedy Maina, Lucas Maina, Harrison Simiyu, and Francis Njuguna had filed an application dated September 21, 2023, praying for the court to compel Nakuru County, through the in charge of Alcoholic Drinks and Control, to re-open their bars, wines, and spirits, as well as reinstate their licenses.
According to an affidavit sworn by Samwel Kingori Mwaira, on behalf of the other bar owners, he claimed that they were all duly licensed by the County Government of Nakuru to operate businesses selling alcoholic drinks. However, on September 8, 2023, a notice was issued by the in-charge, of Alcoholic Drinks and Control, Nakuru County, Mr. Xavier Lugaga, for the closure of bars, wineries, and spirits businesses situated around Kiratina, Nakuru County.
Bar owners claimed that the closure notice was unfair, issued in bad faith, and did not show any sufficient cause. They further claimed that while they held valid licenses, they were condemned unheard, contrary to the principles of natural justice. However, the Nakuru County Government, in a responding affidavit, claimed that a petition was presented by area residents, citing the bar premises as being located within residential plots and near schools and churches. The said outlets created avenues for the sale of illegal liquor and drugs, in contravention of the law. Further, there were complaints that some outlets operated outside the time set in their licenses.
Complaints from area residents compelled the Nakuru Sub County Commissioner to write to the County Secretary, urging the county government not to facilitate the grant of licenses to applicants and others for failing to conform to the Liquor Licensing Act. The commissioner provided the reasons for his opinion.
The judge noted that although the outlets had received their licenses, they could be revoked for non-observance of the terms and the law. Further, the judge noted, “The 3rd Respondent, by his own admission, acted on a letter from the County Commissioner dated June 19, 2023, which was done before the outlets were cleared by the Review Committee to do business. I don’t think that the third respondent could rely on the letter by the county commissioner to back his closure of the outlets in September 2023, since the letter was duly considered by the review committee before it cleared the applicants to operate their businesses.”
The ruling reads in part, “Having looked at the material before me, I am of the opinion that the applicants were not subjected to due process before the notices of September 8, 2023 were issued. Consequently, I am persuaded to proceed to quash the said notices, and I hereby do so. The position shall revert to that issued by the County Review Committee on 29th and 30th June 2023 and the subsequent licenses issued”.
The final order reads, “In conclusion, I proceed to quash the 3rd respondent’s notice of closure dated September 8, 2023, concerning the applicants for the following outlets:
Ground Zero Pub, Ques Bar Shrek wines and spirits, Seasons Pub & Restaurant, Cool Shade Bar & Restaurant, Destination Bar, and Man Man Pub.