Kenya's recently passed alcoholic drinks control act is too restrictive and will harm the country's crucial tourism sector, bar owners and patrons complained Tuesday.
The law, which came into force late last month prohibits alcohol from being sold before 2:00 pm on weekends and 5:00 pm on weekdays and bans licensing for an establishment located within 300 metres of a school.
The new law, which also clamps down on the deadly illicit brew known as Changa'a and attempts to curb underage drinking, was welcomed by anti-drug abuse campaigners.
But many restaurant, hotel and bar owners were left reeling by the new law and mulling their strategy to have some restrictions eased during the nine-month grace period granted to the main affected parties by the new act.
"This law is punitive, it's absolute nonsense," said one Nairobi bar owner. "It is also against the government's own blueprint of making this country a 24-hour economy."
"What can you tell that retiree tourist who would like to have a beer for his breakfast," he said, declining to give his name.
One reveller at Nairobi's popular Simmers bar, where people start gathering to drink beer at lunchtime every day, argued the government was "shooting itself in the foot".
"You want your economy to be like that of European countries yet you take measures that can only be equated with pure activism," said the young man, pouring himself a glass of Kenya's premium Tusker beer.
"Kenyans love their 'nyama choma' (roast meat in Kiswahili) during the holidays and on weekends in the company of their kids. Now we don't know what will happen," said Joseph Kariuki, a father of two.
"This law is anti-social. Life will be boring," he said.
As rules on the implementation of the act are still being drafted by the government, bar owners claimed they had already incurred significant losses because patrons feared arrest and sobering fines.
"We have tried to lobby and show sense to the authorities... but we couldn?t manage to convince the MPs," said Peter Wekesa of the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya and the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers.
The Kenya Tourism Federation has also expressed concern that the new act could adversely affect tourism, a top foreign currency earner.
The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority praised the law as the "dawn of a new era".