A Christmas village in Rabat came close to being prematurely shut down on Monday when sanitation officials threatened operators with €700 fines for not having a sink behind each stall selling food and drinks.

Organisers said officials first made the demand when the market was in full swing, then agreed to postpone enforcement until next year but returned to threaten stall owners with fines. 

In a video posted to Facebook, an organiser of the annual Christmas event Natalis Notabilis said officials ordered sinks to be installed at every food and drink stall on Monday morning. 

Organiser Sharlo Vassallo said the demand was impossible to fulfil.  

"We'd have to dismantle everything, run water across the entire event and put things back together," he told attendees. 

The issue, Vassallo continued, was that stalls were selling food and drink such as doughnuts and glasses of soft drinks without having a sink installed.

In none of the previous years has the lack of sinks been an issue, he added. 

“Malta has become a country where you can basically do nothing,” he told a crowd as they vocalised their disgust.

Organisers discussed the situation with officials and came to a compromise: the event will continue this year as is, but will install sinks in stands from next year onwards.

While that seemed to be the end of it, several sanitation officials showed up at the event on Monday evening “to kick everyone out” or face fines of up to €700.

“’We have been sent here to do our job, so we need to do our job,’” the organiser claimed officials told them.

Organisers then decided to stop the event. But before stall owners could pack up, officials allegedly backpedalled and said the event could go ahead without sinks this year. 

"We're nobody's fools," the organiser said. "If sanitation officials are going to shut us down, they have to shut down every other activity that is held," he said.

“We are not here to waste everyone’s time,” he added, emphasising that the event followed all the safety precautions requested of them, such as having an ambulance on standby and fire extinguishers across the event.

An event which began in 2016, Natalis Notabilis returned to Rabat after a several-year hiatus, bringing the holiday spirit with stalls and festivities from December 7 to 13.

Questions have been sent to the Health Ministry.

Times of Malta attempted to contact organisers on Wednesday morning.

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