Licensed bars and nightclubs can now reopen after being closed since March last year but only for the fully-vaccinated and will still have to follow all the other lockdown health rules and the permitted opening and curfew hours.
Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the reopening came with the realisation that the closure had resulted in loss of revenue and jobs for operators and their staff.
“Cabinet notes, with concern, that the continued closure of licensed bars and nightclubs has caused not only a loss of income and unemployment but also resulted in the mushrooming of illegal outlets.
“Cabinet therefore directed that all licensed bars be opened to fully vaccinated clients,” she said.
However, bar owners will be required to ensure that the World Health Organisation and national health protocols and guidelines are enforced to avoid having their licences withdrawn.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the bars were also required to adhere to curfew hours. In this they will be now on the same footing as restaurants, also allowed for some weeks to be open for sitting customers, but only the fully vaccinated and still having to close at 7pm.
The details and any variation in business hours for hospitality concerns will come in the required amendments to the lockdown regulations.
Under the Level Two lockdown measures, which were extended by a further two weeks, curfew hours run from 10pm to 5.30am while businesses operate between 8am and 7pm. Bottle stores were operating between 8am and 4pm and again the amended regulations will announce any changes here.
Bar and club owners said the lifting of the ban on bars and nightclubs was a relief as the closure had caused a chain of negative effects for almost two years.
Said Mr Nhamo Zimuto, owner of Boomerang bars and nightclubs: “The announcement has brought relief to many people because we have lost quite a lot of income during the time we were not operating. Ours is a massive industry and we employ a lot of people but as things stand, some operators might not be able to reopen as they have not been generating any money while they were closed.”
Operators would follow health protocols, he said, to ensure that they continue running their businesses and recover losses.
Pan African Development Foundation chairman Mr Ignatius Pamire said bars and nightclubs had been paying for their licenses during the time they were not operating and this had become a huge burden on most businesses.
“We welcome the situation where people can now get back to business. We have been paying for our licenses despite not operating, so many operators will be keen to get back to business.
“Many people lost their jobs and after such a long time, it is possible some operators will not even be able to reopen,” he said.
He expressed hope that the Government would consider offering a rescue package for some operators to ensure they rise from their situation and start contributing towards the country’s economic recovery.