Bar owners across Valletta who must close their doors once again as from tomorrow told Times of Malta they were being unfairly targeted in response to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
All bars and każini (clubs) must be closed until December 1, as part of fresh restrictions introduced by the government to try and control the growing spread of the novel coronavirus.
Those establishments with a bar licence must close while snack bars and kiosks will still be able to open during the day but cannot serve alcohol. They must close between 11pm and 5am.
Speaking to Times of Malta on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a number of bar owners in the capital city said they were being unfairly targeted because of some not following all the rules.
“It’s unfair as we are being closed because of those who have not been adhering to the measures. I have invested a lot of time and money in making sure I follow all the rules but, because others elsewhere think they can do as they please, we all have to shut down,” one bar owner said.
Asked whether he was hopeful the move could help improve the situation when the restriction is lifted at the end of November, the bar owner said he had little hope things would get better.
“Everyone’s financial situation is bad right now. This is the last thing we needed.
“I am not contesting the authorities’ decision, they know what is best, but, at the same time, it’s frustrating seeing others do as they please but not being penalised,” the bar owner said.
Another seemed to be taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, saying that, in the past, the authorities have been known to “make U-turns” at the last minute.
He said: “We’ll see, maybe they will let us serve a packet of crisps again!”
The comment referred to the decision in August to allow establishments that serve their customers snacks, such as packets of crisps, to remain open despite regulations saying they should close.
At the time, the Medical Association of Malta had said that serving a bag of crisps and a drink does not modify a bar’s licence and “neither does it change the genetics of a virus”.
But it seems that the issue with different licences could once again see some establishments dodging the restrictions.
Some owners, who operate bar-like establishments but who have different licences, such as a retail licence because they also sell some products off their shelves, have told Times of Malta they did not have to close shop.
“Our licence is not for a bar and so we are allowed to stay open,” one said.
The legal notice published to regulate the closure states: “All bars and clubs shall not open for business and shall remain closed until 6am of December 1, 2020”.
Bar staff to receive €200 more in wage supplement
Bar owners will be eligible for a €200 top-up of the wage supplement after the government on Monday ordered a one-month closure to help fight the corona-virus pandemic.
Asked what financial aid would be given to help these businesses, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said earlier this week that bar owners, and their staff, will now be eligible for a top tier wage supplement of €800.
They had previously been eligible for a €600 monthly support payment.
Meanwhile, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, which represents catering establishments, did not say whether it would be reaching out to the government with proposals of its own for the industry.
Instead, association president Tony Zahra urged the government to find a balance between health-saving measures and sustaining the economy and people’s livelihoods.
“In view of the ongoing pandemic and without a clear exit in sight one has to find a balance between health, the economy and quality of life,” he said.
Zahra added that the association will contribute towards decisions the government will be making on the matter when invited to do so.
Until then, he said, the association will be urging all its members to adhere to the measures announced by the authorities on Monday.