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COVID-19 impact on pubs and bars in Ghana

BY: Kofi Wiredu

The COVID-19 virus has undoubtedly caused irreparable effects worldwide.

In Ghana, the fear of catching the virus has influenced business owners, individuals and families to take drastic decisions on a new way of life, intended to keep them safe and prevent them from catching the virus.

This virus has undoubtedly changed people’s jobs and livelihoods in ways that hitherto, were unimaginable.

Hospitality industry

Taking a critical look at how efforts to limit the spread of the virus have affected the hospitality industry in Ghana, one could easily say that it has taken the hardest hit.
Almost all leisure and social activities were brought to a standstill. Over the past five years in Ghana, domestic travel and tourism has contributed an average of 5.5% to Ghana’s GDP.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the projected GDP growth for 2020 was 6.8% at the beginning of the year and has now plummeted to 1.8%.

In March, when the President called for a partial lockdown, pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants were unable to offer services to the general public, as such establishments usually house large crowds of people and are designed for social gatherings.

Still suffering

Three months after the partial lockdown was lifted, business owners and workers across the hospitality industry in Ghana are still recording very low patronage.

We are at the time of the year when the people of the coast usually celebrate most of their festivals. This would mean many opportunities for making merry, social gatherings, parties, among many others.

Records from industry players show beverage distributors have recorded an all-time low of barely 200 crates sold per day, as opposed to a normal day’s sale of about 500 crates per day, and 1,500 crates during festive seasons in previous years.

For Bernice Sam, a liquor store entrepreneur in Cape Coast, she had to let go of her employees, as she has been unable to pay them with the amount of money her business has been making.

“These days, no one comes here anymore. Once in a while, I would have a customer call me and order a few drinks and they would come by to pick up their order,” she said

Socialisation

For some, prior to the invasion of the COVID-19 pandemic, pubs and bars were more than a place to purchase alcoholic beverages, it was also a place for socialisation and a much-needed avenue of social interaction.

One frequent customer of The Pantry – Cape Coast, expressed his frustrations by saying, “Before this pandemic, we used to come here and discuss work issues, and find solutions for each other; but now, some of us can’t even go to work. Those of us who go to work too, we have to go straight home, no social life”

Significant decline

The tourist industry has also experienced a significant decline in patronage.

Bars that have been strategically positioned next to prime tourist attractions such as the Cape Coast Castle, the Kumasi Arts and Cultural Centre and the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum are recording unprecedented low levels of customers per day.

Now, they are serving one plate per day as opposed to the normal day when one would serve about 70+ customers a day.
Some business owners in Tema have decided to run a shift system where workers come in one week and stay home the next. To business owners, this reduces the amount of money they have to pay workers, helping them reduce their overhead costs.

In a conversation with one Adwoa Adomaa, owner of Virgin City Pub at Mile 7, Accra, she expressed worry about how fixed costs such as rent have not been reduced or waived, even though they have had their doors closed to the public for several months.

Having conversations with pub, bar owners and customers across various regions in Ghana, has shown how the players in the beverage manufacturing and distribution industry have tried to be innovative in spite of the circumstances.

The people, whose jobs and livelihood have been affected, cannot wait to see the announcement of a vaccine for COVID-19 to help bring life back to some level of normalcy.
Until then, a huge boost and support from the government can be the only thing to look forward to.

The writer is a communication consultant at HR Focus Africa