Hearing the news that Papyrus Bar and restaurant had closed down was a bit dispiriting. It wasn’t because I had a particular fondness for the place, but because it was another manifestation of what a friend of mine once called ‘the war against fun.’
Perhaps Vision 2020 has a recommended decibel level most of us are unaware of.
There are people who won’t rest until the only thing you hear at night in Kigali will be the chirping of the crickets- and even they may be cited for noise violations and for not having adequate parking clearance.
Some authorities seem to have a phobia for any venues or events where fun just might break out. I always imagine there is a taskforce whose sole purpose is to go around town shutting down parties for having the temerity to play music.
And if you are trying to set up an entertainment venue in this town…well, it would actually be easier to get permission to build a nuclear reactor in Kigali. Just make sure there is no loud music as you process your uranium.
Seeing as I am heading-with uncomfortably quick speed- towards my thirties, my concerns about this aren’t actually selfish ones. For starters, it’s the principle: why are we working on the assumption that people going out is something that must be heavily controlled with all the weight of the law? Why are we regulating this so vigorously and ruthlessly?
But- more importantly- this is the kind of thing that is terrible for the economy. In times of economic uncertainty, consumer spending should be boosted by creating more opportunities to get people to use their money. Low demand means less revenue for government and less money in circulation.
This is before we even get to the less tangible benefits from a vibrant entertainment sector (for lack of a better expression) like personal satisfaction that feed into greater productivity.
So at the risk of sounding glib, the authorities need to be doing the very opposite of what they are doing now- they need to create an environment where it is easier to start a venue like Papyrus.
You can’t have a booming economy if people are sitting at home, unwilling to go out because there is nothing to go out to. And if you have spent even five minutes at a place like papyrus on a Friday night, you’ll know that this is big business.
The guy lining up shots at the bar for himself and his friends is actually doing his bit for the economy, albeit in an unorthodox way. Consumer spending is extremely important.
Turning the entertainment sector into the enemy means more people stay home at night (and hang onto their money) while simultaneously spooking those who are investing in the same business and making it harder for new people to enter the market (and making it more likely for the current ones to leave).
The flip side to that is that all that money will be sitting in people’s bank accounts rather than in the accounts of government and investors. Having to choose between the economic benefits of this kind of consumer spending and strict enforcement of City council parking rules, I know what the pragmatic decision should be.