NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 – Dozens of small groups stood huddled opposite the Holy Family Basilica outside a closed Garden Square restaurant on Thursday evening unsure of why the doors were closed and when they will reopen.
“We came here at about 6.10pm and found all these people just standing here, no one has told us anything,” a confused Ciku told Captial FM.
Ciku, like many of those who stood huddled outside the Garden Square restaurant, was there as part of a funeral committee, planning the laying to rest of a loved one.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. The funeral is tomorrow in Embu and it’s already so late,” Ciku said of the restaurant popular with funeral meetings, “we came here because our friends told us it’s affordable and convenient. Now I wish we had tried other places.”
With a new sherrif in town, Garden Square restaurant was one of the first casualties of Governor Evans Kidero’s goverment, “We charge the least rent which is way below the current market rates, but some of our tenants have willingly made it a habit of defaulting on rent, they should update their records.”
Garden Square restaurant was shut down on Thursday by the county government for owing Sh17.8 million in rent and their seats and fridges, among other things, were carted off to help recover the debt.
Bowling Green Restaurant in City Park suffered the same fate and was shut down on account of a Sh5 million rent debt also owed to the county government.
The county government, which came into effect about a month ago, inherited the debt from the now defunct Nairobi City Council which had rented out the properties.
While Kidero admits the inherited property may not be in the best shape, he is adamant dues owed to his government will be collected; “I must admit that our properties are not in good condition but that is not a reason to default on rent, I humbly urge them to pay so that we can get revenue and upgrade their conditions.”
Former town clerk Tom Odongo, who is now Kidero’s pick to spearhead matters land, housing and planning in Nairobi county, said the two properties will be renovated and availed to the highest bidder in order turn the bad debt around.
“We will advertise for expressions of interest so that we can get investors we can partner with in these strategic establishments that have been under used over the years,” Odongo explained.
John Ongori however, has no idea how to turn his and his family’s bad investment around, “We paid our Sh1,000 deposit yesterday and we were meant to have our first meeting today. We’re meant to be planning for my cousin’s burial but we’ve stood here for hours and nobody has told us anything.”
Time, the matatu tout said, he could have used earning a living during the rush hour to help meet some of the burial costs.