KAMPALA: Beer company, Uganda Breweries Limited has announced a stimulus package for bars ahead of full reopening of the night economy next week to a tune of shs2.1 billion with funding directed towards the purchase of materials for bar space enhancement.
The night economy which among others includes bars and has been closed for over two years following the outbreak of the Covid pandemic will on Monday, January ,24 reopen after being battered by the pandemic.
Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, UBL acting Managing Director, Eunice Waweru said the support phased over two years will be extended to bars under the auspices of the Raising the Bar program , an initiative championed by their Bell Lager brand.
“Many bar businesses are in distress following the prolonged period of closure as a result of the Covid containment measures. We therefore find it imperative to come in to ease the burden of yet another unprecedented financial shock by extending support to enable safe reopening of bar businesses,” Waweru said during a function held at Legenda Bar in Kampala.
According to Emmy Hashikimana, the UBL Marketing and Innovations Director, at least 1600 bars from Mukono, Kampala and Wakiso have been selected to benefit from the program and that these will benefit from funding covering space, hygiene support, provision of awareness training for bars, recreational facilities and similar establishment of facilities to ensure social distancing and other Covid SOPs are observed.
“We are going to fund and equip bars in preparation to welcome visitors back to the bar safely. This will be done through funding the provision of physical sanitizing points, mobile bars and additional outdoor sitting to allow for the desired social distancing and sensitize bar owners and staff on how to adapt their operations to the current pandemic times,” Hashikimana said.
Juliana Kagwa, the UBL Corporate Relations Director said reopening of the night life will breathe a new life into a bigger part of the economy that depends on night life and not necessarily bars.
“People might think it is only bars but there is a ripple effect on the economy. Reopening doesn’t only mean realization of sales and net revenue by beer companies but the whole value chain will benefit,” Kagwa noted, adding that over 700,000 people including bartenders, transporters, sorghum and barley farmers among other lost their jobs due to closure of the night economy.
“These will now get another opportunity to resume business but also be able to invest.”
Mass vaccination drive
At the same function, UBL launched a mass vaccination drive, targeting bartenders, consumers and the general public at various bars and hospitality venues spread across Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono.
Speaking at the lunch of the vaccination drive, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr.Diana Atwine applauded the beer company and the private sector at large for supplementing government efforts in the fight against the pandemic.
“For the last two years, you made our journey lighter by giving us a shoulder to lean on as government. What we need is getting everyone vaccinated and such an initiative is welcome,”Dr.Atwine said.
Underscoring the role of vaccination, Atwine said that during the previous wave, most of the people who died of Covid were those not vaccinated.
“Vaccination will enable us defeat the virus. What we have witnessed in the previous wave is that vaccination saves lives. Whereas many people died, what made the difference was vaccination. It will help take us closer to defeating the virus and it will reach a time where Covid is life flue but this can only be achieved through vaccination of the entire population,” she said.
According to Patrick Musinguzi, the chairperson of bar owners under their umbrella body, the Legit Bar and Restaurant Owners said their business has been badly hit by the pandemic and that any move that ensures the reopening is welcomed with both hands.
“Some people think the night economy is only about bars but it is a broad thing and the pandemic greatly affected us. Many of our members lost their businesses to banks whereas some of them died due to stress. We will now ensure everyone who comes to the bars is vaccination and to do this we shall require proof. We want to ensure all the SOPs are adhered to in bars,”Musinguzi said.