The current directive on noise pollution is likely to affect doing business in Kigali, and harm revenues generated from entertainment activities, business owners have claimed. This, they say, is due to the directive that is not specific or what exactly is or isn’t permitted by authorities. Kigali’s nightlife was progressively picking up from the toll of the pandemic, but the vague directive could deal a heavy blow to the industry and also keep away would-be investors. Several city-based bars, restaurants, and nightclubs again fell victim recently, with a number of them temporarily closed, some slapped with fines and others forced to relocate their business. “It is really hard, especially for those who are doing business in the commercial and residential area,” one of the business owners who had previously set up a bar in Nyarutarama said. “Police show up at the same time people want music to be played. You fail to strike a balance between police, the neighbourhood and your clients,” the source added. A week ago, the source told The New Times that they were forced to relocate to Kimihurura. “Income is at stake here when you look at it. Lately, we have relocated from Nyarutarama to Kimihurura. Sometimes we are threatened that the business might permanently shut down if we do not put down the music.” According to them, their business has since been given a warning notice for contravening the laws on noise pollution. “When they close down, they sometimes even take your speakers (sound system). And to be able to bring this back, it requires a whole process, much of it with paperwork. It is harder to look at it in the aspect of the festive season. You don’t know whether you will incur losses or profit.” Another source, whose business is based at Gishushu, also expressed frustration, citing losses incurred. “We are honestly frustrated because of the losses we incur. From time to time, we are ordered to close down because of noise pollution. There are no clear guidelines for noise pollution, despite authorities promising to deliver them.” For instance, the source said that two days ago, authorities from security organs forced them to turn down the music, if they were willing to remain open for business. “That means that by 7 pm we are requested to shut down all the music. Sincerely there is no entertainment without music. And by that time, for people who are used to nightlife, most clients are coming in.” We used to have live bands, and parties, but that is no more, they added. “This has hugely affected our income, especially in the working days of the week. We are located in a commercial centre, partly why we are even licensed.” The source, who also manages the business, said that this has forced them to bring down most of the musical instruments, and oftentimes even deploy employees outside the premises to ‘measure’ the amount of sound being produced. Event managers deprived of venues An events manager, who chose to speak on grounds of anonymity, told The New Times that they were recently denied hosting an event in the premises of Century Park, on grounds that all outdoor gatherings had been discouraged by the City of Kigali. “We wanted to host two events but they pushed us to Camp Kigali.” “I really think people in that field should sit with concerned authorities and agree on a middle ground.” This is not the first time businesses are appealing to concerned authorities for clear guidelines concerning noise levels. In September, one Rachel, a business owner, was among the proprietors to fall afoul of the law. She then took to Twitter to file a complaint, at the time tagging Rwanda Development Board (RDB). “Hi RDB, any news on when we will have guidelines for noise levels for restaurants/events,” said Rebecca in a tweet, adding, “We have someone in the neighbourhood who complains to the police as soon as someone sneezes too loud, meaning we can’t manage our events without the threat of being shut down.” According to her, she said, “Guidelines would be deeply appreciated.” RDB was quick to respond to the complaint, citing that while draft noise pollution guidelines have been developed by responsible institutions including the City of Kigali and the Ministry of Local government, some important details were, at the time, being finalised to ensure the guidelines are clear for all to interpret and implement. Long overdue The New Times reached out to RDB to ask what they make of the concerns, and Emmanuel Nsabimana, Head of the Tourism Regulation Department said, “One thing to agree on is that it has taken long, we need to push and get them (guidelines). It is a wakeup call really.” Nsabimana indicated that no decision-maker in Rwanda is or has ever been against vibrant nightlife. He said, the guidelines expected to be released soon, were developed in partnership with industry players, as part of the ways to enhance compliance. When pressed for details on when they would be released, he said, “I can’t speculate, but by the festive season it should be clear. Let’s be hopeful in the next two weeks.” Nsabimana however disclosed that the focus was given to regulating noise levels and decibels considering whether zones are residential, commercial or mixed views. Also, integrated in the guidelines, are penalties for business owners who will not comply with the guidelines.