High Court Sides with Bar Owners in Govt’s Anti-Alcohol Crackdown

May 24, 2024

The High Court has declared the government’s anti-alcohol campaign illegal.

Nyandarua Bar Owners had filed a petition challenging the directive to close bars near residential areas and schools, claiming it was discriminatory and violated their rights.

The traders argued that they had sought amicable solutions to the dispute over the illegal ministerial directives but to no avail.

The court heard that the directive’s continued implementation would collapse businesses and adversely affect about 500 business owners and their dependents.

But in its defense, the government, through an affidavit by the County Commissioner, cited numerous deaths from illicit alcohol to justify the crackdown.

“The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Interior and National Government Administration issued directives on measures to curb illicit brews. The bars were closed in conformity with the same. The petitioners have not attached any licenses to prove that they were operating the business legally,” read part of the government’s response.

The county commissioner argued that fresh vetting was necessary to ensure compliance and public safety.

On Wednesday, the Nyandarua High Court ruled that the crackdown was unfair and threatened livelihoods, noting that the petitioners were legally operating with county permits for 2023.

Judge Charles Kariuki stated that bar owners, manufacturers, and distributors affected by the Interior Ministry’s unconstitutional actions could seek damages for business closures and asset seizures.

The court ordered the Ministry of Interior and the County Commissioner of Nyandarua to cover the petition costs filed by bar owners.

The judgment emphasized the need for fair administrative action and adequate notice before closing bars.

Justice Kariuki declared the closure of bars and asset seizures illegal and unconstitutional, allowing bar owners to resume business.

Both parties must report on the implementation of these orders within two months, with a follow-up scheduled for July 16, 2024.

“Order be and is hereby issued directing the respondents not to interfere with petitioners trading in their business premises, which are not within the prohibited range of proximity as prescribed by Alcoholic Control Laws. Petitioners’ members whose bars are within the prohibited range are allowed to access their premises to remove their tools of trade, stock, and belongings. They will have 60 days to make plans to close or move their businesses to alternative places of business,” the judge ruled.

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