Bar owners opt for coffee shops and restaurants to stay afloat

Tuesday August 18 2020


With closure of bars now entering the sixth month, operators say they have been forced to reinvent their bistro business to solely focus on meals as hopes for resuming continue to fade. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

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Several bars in Kigali have converted their space into restaurants, shops and cafes to circumvent the loss of income caused by Covid-19 containment measures.

Bars, like the gambling sector, are among businesses that have remained missing on the list of those considered in the economy’s gradual reopening undertaken since June 1 due to their perceived risks of fuelling a rise in the coronavirus infections.

With their closure now entering the sixth month, bar operators say they have been forced to reinvent their bistro business to solely focus on meals as hopes for resuming continue to fade.

A section of them who spoke to Rwanda Today indicate that losses in addition to accumulating bills in rent has weighed down many while others are on the verge of collapse if they don’t transform into something else in the sectors that are permitted to operate under the current health guidelines.

“Now except those who operate in their own structures hence not owing rent to anyone, no one else can afford to remain shut for unspecified period. Now there is little hope that bars are going to be allowed back in business soon,” said Sonia Uwamahoro, whose bar business based in Muhima openned doors as a restaurant last week.

Ms Uwamahoro said landlords for the bar space normally demand three to four months’ rent in advance, only a few operators managed to raise the money while remaining shut.


Rwanda Today established that several closed bars had reopened as restaurants or cafes, while many bar spaces in neighbourhoods of Kigali are increasingly turning into shops or canteens to remain in the business.

Emmanuel Dusingizeyezu whose bar turned a restaurant in Kacyiru indicates that much as the shift had proved uneasy and faced challenges attracting clientele, it allowed him to retain the space and interact with former customers in case the bistro business is allowed to reopen in the near future.

“It did not require me to purchase any additional equipment apart from expanding an already existing small kitchen, and taking beer out of display. But you will find that many bars businesses that are transforming still stock beer which is sold to customers as takeaway. That allows one to keep in touch with former customers,” he said.

Unlike bars, hospitality outlets such as hotels, restaurants and coffee shops were allowed to resume operations effective May 4 under strict health guidelines that include registering customers.