17 November 2012

Rwanda: Good City Planning Means a Good Nightlife


In early October, bitter words were exchanged on social media and other platforms about the then threat to close down the popular Kimihurura-based bar and restaurant called Papyrus. Now, the same story is being repeated, this time in Nyarutarama, involving the same authorities, but a different business - K Club.

According to various social media reports, the popular and arguably number one nightclub in Kigali, faces closure. Whether the information is true or not is not the purpose of this article. The two scenarios speak of the same problem.

Apparently, city planning is not being enforced to the latter. Whereas it is important that businesses be protected and allowed to thrive, it is most likely that city plans are not followed to the latter when some businesses are being set up or modified. Alternatively, parts of city planning remain on paper, or are not clear enough.

Otherwise, in a modern city, there should be a clear distinction as to where one can set up a nightclub and where not to. In many instances, it is not easy to draw a clear distinction between a regular bar and a nightclub. It is now the norm that many 'elitist' nightspots, especially bars playing loud music, are located in residential areas.

Others are located in the vicinity of diplomatic missions and loud music is played with reckless abandon.

In many well planned cities, it is the norm that a nightclub or bar can not be located in the middle of a residential area. Kimihurura is a residential area - same for Kiyovu and Nyarutarama. But bars with loud music are all over these places and on weekend nights, roads are blocked as cars are parked all over the place.

Regardless of the noise or chatter that the threat of closure of such places has generated many times, in the long run, such scheme of things is not sustainable in a city that looks to the future. There ought to be places that are clearly designated for specific purposes. Bars and nightclubs that operate until late should be located in specific places that are exclusively for such business.

Nevertheless, though the concerned people, investors and city planning authorities must hold in mind the historical anomalies of Kigali City planning, deliberate efforts to put this kind of akajagali to an end must be instituted. A clear roadmap should be spelt out and those who have invested a lot in businesses that are located where they ought not to be know when their grace period will run out.

The grand Kigali City Master Plan has all that in, but realistically, it is still a long way before it is implemented in its entirety. For now, measures to ensure harmony should be implemented. Again, some are tempted to say that other cities in the region fare worse when compared to Kigali. But let's not compare ourselves with the dysfunctional. Every place has unique challenges and unique interventions.

All well planned cities have specific areas with streets specifically designated for night entertainment: London has Soho and others; Amsterdam has its famous entertainment district and so on as so forth.

For the 'night animals', such kind of planning is good because it reduces on the costs of bar hopping. For example, it will cost less than it is now, where one has to run from MTN Centre, to Downtown, then back to Carwash on to Papyrus and winding down at KBC - all in one night. It is expensive that way. If all the 'happening' places were on the same street, then the fun would be cheaper. Not So! Even the tourists, I bet, would like it better.

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