MARCH 14, 2010: Bars to Close by 10pm

All Bars to Close By 10PM
SOURCE: New Vision

By Francis Kagolo and Brenda Asiimwe

Kampala — BARS in Kampala and other urban centres will soon be required not to operate beyond 10:00pm when the amended Enguli (liquor) Act is passed into law.

The proposed Bill, which aims at curbing alcohol abuse in the country, also stipulates that bars should remain closed during the day and only open at 5:00pm.

Up-country drinking joints are only allowed to open between 5:00pm and 8:00pm.

State minister for industry and technology Simon Lokodo briefed alcohol manufacturers on Friday about the upcoming legislation.

"Alcohol is a social factor that brings us together. But drinking should be done up to a certain time. This will assist us address several problems," the minister said during a symposium organised by the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association at Kampala Imperial Royale Hotel.

If somebody is caught selling alcohol beyond the stipulated time, Lokodo said, the bill provides for the withdrawal of their licences for a certain period. They will be jailed on repeating the offence.

"Those who would like to drink beyond 8:00pm (for up-country) and 10:00pm (for towns) will have an option of going to hotels," he clarified in a separate interview.

He said the Government planned to strengthen the Uganda National Bureau of Standards to effectively monitor alcohol producers, dealers and sellers across the country.

The bureau's budget will be improved and the agency will be provided with more logistics and staff to fight illegalities in the alcohol sector in conjunction with the Police and other security agencies, he said.

Lokodo was optimistic that tougher legislation on alcohol would bring down violence and crime rates across the country.

Citing Bebe Cool's recent incident when he was shot and injured by a Police officer at Centenary Park, the minister said: "Drinking in open places for long hours has been causing violence in the city. This will be solved."

Lokodo appealed for responsible drinking, saying alcohol is only good when taken at the right time, the right place and in the right quantities.

He was silent on the penalties for people caught drinking in bars beyond the fixed time but a source at the ministry hinted at possible arrest.

Lokodo said the Bill will be ready for tabling in Parliament in two months. It will be backed by a comprehensive national alcohol policy drafted by the health ministry.

Dr. David Basangwa, the deputy chief of Butabika mental hospital and a member of the taskforce that drafted the policy, said it emphasises responsible production, advertisement and sale of alcohol.

He revealed that the policy would bar roadside kiosks and shops from selling alcohol. "Not every shop and kiosk on the roadside can be an outlet for alcohol," he said.

The Government is also considering taxing alcohol produced in the informal sector, which according to Basangwa accounts for 65% of all alcohol in the country. This will affect brewers of local unpatented brands like Kwete, Tonto, Malwa, Akaliga, and Mukomboti.

Such measures, Basangwa explained, were intended to reduce drunk driving and the selling of alcohol to vulnerable groups like minors. The policy will also prohibit adverts that entice children into drinking alcohol.

Basangwa said the draft policy was handed over to the health minister who will soon table it in Parliament.

Leaders of the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association welcomed measures to prevent children from drinking. However, some expressed fear that closing bars at 10:00pm could affect their market.

Jolly Kamwesigye, the human resource manager of the National Environment Management Authority urged the Government to include a provision in the bill allowing for the sacking of drunk employees.

In 2004, the World Health Organisation ranked Uganda as the leading consumer of alcohol in the world.

A survey in schools by Victory Rehabilitation Centre recently revealed that 71% of urban secondary school students drink alcohol.

The Police and private security guards are the top abusers of alcohol in Uganda, according to last year's report "The State of Alcohol Abuse in Uganda".