No more happy hours in bars as virus drives away patrons

Friday August 20 2021
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High Table Bar is one of the businesses that have been closed since last year. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE


They were buzzing, especially during weekends. If you are late, getting a seat in some joints was close to impossible.

This is not the case now. Some joints are liliterally ghost zones as owners struggle to stay afloat at least for now.

This is the new face of bars in Kigali. Covid-19 lockdown has seen bar business feel a deeper pinch, that has left many wondering its fate.

It might have seemed a normal procedure for people to no longer step out, sit, and drink for leisure, but it turns out a real nightmare to places like bars and night clubs initially set up for this purpose.

It is July 14, a few days into the proposed total lockdown following the government meeting that sought measures to contain Covid-19, after infections surged countrywide.

Once characterised by music, service of drinks, food, socialising, and at times live concerts, this is currently a myth.


An evening walk, through the Amahoro Stadium lane, right along the Mijina Remera-Gisement, once vibrant barstreet, reflects the opposite. Adjacent to the stadium’s main entrance is the High Table Bar, which has been closed for a while, with no hope of reopening soon.

The same street which once had a stream of bars keeps changing, as most bar premises have been vacated, yet the remaining ones like Chez Merez Malengi, Jeruzalem Mboka ya Sika, among others, partially have added Bar-Resto to them, in the hope of offering restaurant services to clients.

The mood isn’t different across Gisementi area, whose economy was majorly backed by bar businesses.

Typical about these bar locations are sports betting companies, which served the same clientele but are now sharing the same pain.

Located in Nyamirambo, at Mirongoine, right by the roadside, is Makumba Bar, also closed, with only the spaced chairs, the empty dusty counter, and of course the silence that welcomes one, “There were times before the pandemic when we used to host customers to the brim, and sales were satisfying,” recalls Marie Aimme Twayigize, manager to this facility.

Although they had closed before, they further remodeled their operations to restaurant Take-Away services, but this didn’t last for long.

“As lockdowns returned, our clients number drastically dropped. We were operating at a loss, since we could receive very few orders, yet these required the same investment,” said Pierre Nkusi(not real names), an employee at this bar.

“At first our employees were assured of at least half of their salary, but due to the ‘Stay Home’ campaign, we weren’t even sure 20 percent of orders from clients,” explains Mrs. Twayigize. But as a prospective franchisee, that had spanned more, with similar branches in Remera-Gisementi and another in Kimironko, Makumba Bar has tasted far deeper heat.