A total of 68 bars, restaurants and other food establishments have a permit to put out tables and chairs on public land in Sliema and Gżira, figures tabled in parliament show.

Most of the permits stretch across Triq ix-Xatt and the majority of them are located in Sliema.

Lands Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi tabled the figures in parliament on Monday in a reply to a question filed by PN MP Albert Buttigieg.

The figures also reveal there are permits for two ticket booths, two kiosks, two vending machines, two water dispensers, two BCRS machines, two substations, three displays for items, one billboard, one cesspit, one tower crane, one electric point, one LPG tank and one backup generator.

But the list of encroachments on public land is overwhelmingly dominated by permits for tables and chairs.

People across the country have been growing increasingly frustrated about bars and restaurants occupying public land.

While shops pay the government for occupying the land, residents in several localities have become incensed that pedestrianised spaces and sometimes entire streets have been taken up almost entirely by tables, chairs, umbrellas, canopies, menu boards, cutlery cabinets, planters and other furniture marking the perimeter of the encroachment.

Residents in Valletta took to the streets of the capital earlier this month to protest over having to grapple with encroachment in the city, and in Mellieħa, activists occupied tables and chairs outside a restaurant owned by db Group.

Residents all across Valletta, Sliema, Mellieħa, Marsascala and Buġibba recently plastered stickers reading 'pavements for citizens' or 'no pavement, no vote' - on public spaces that have been encroached upon by restaurants' tables, chairs and canopies.

Moviment Graffitti co-ordinated the campaign but stressed that the stickers were being affixed by residents who had enough of being ignored and "ping-ponged" between the authorities. 

In a Facebook post, Moviment Graffitti, said the "invasion" of public spaces had "exceeded the limit".

Last month journalist and activist Peppi Azzopardi even urged people to sit at tables that are excessively obstructing public spaces and refuse to order food and beverages, and tell restaurant staff that it is the shop that is occupying land it does not own, and not the other way around.

The situation has been played out across Gozo as well, where the archpriest of Victoria slammed a land grab by restaurants in the square in front of St George's Basilica.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us