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Drama at Simmers as askaris raid premise over rate arrears

A popular entertainment joint at the city centre was on Thursday morning forcibly closed by county government askaris for about half an hour over unpaid land rates.

The management of Simmers pub and restaurant however negotiated a quick truce with the officials and was promptly allowed to resume operations after writing two cheques totaling Sh 1.1 million – which was more than half of the arrears owed.

The 10 a.m. incident attracted a crowd who milled around the Kenyatta avenue based restaurant.

Meanwhile, staff at the facility at one point turned rowdy and chanted verbal abuses towards the county askaris and the media.

County askaris during the operation at Simmers restaurant located on Kenyatta avenue. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA
County askaris during the operation at Simmers restaurant located on Kenyatta avenue. PHOTO | DAVID KWALIMWA

They accused the county government of applying “selective punishment” towards businesses that are yet to clear the rates, and the media of “getting involved in issues that are none of their business”.

Hatujali hata mkituharibia jina, hiyo gazette tutafunga nayo nyama (the management doesn’t mind what you write, we shall use those newspapers to wrap meat,” one of the senior employees at the restaurant repeatedly told journalists who were covering the operation.

Another employee at the venue physically assaulted a journalist before attempting to grab his camera.

Onlookers and journalists during the raid at Simmers. PHOTO |DAVID KWALIMWA
Onlookers and journalists during the raid at Simmers. PHOTO |DAVID KWALIMWA

Drama started at around 10 a.m. when a lorry full of county askaris parked at the entrance of the facility and ordered all employees and clients to leave the premises.

The staff at the venue initially resisted but were eventually overpowered by some plain clothes security men  who then took over the premise’s main entrance.

“The (Nairobi) County Government is owed Sh 60 billion by rate defaulters. This amount is more than enough to ensure we fix our roads and drainage. For those of you who haven’t paid up, we are coming for you,” John Ntoiti, chairman of steering committee on rates, later told the media.