Police enforcement of a ban on alcohol in places where minors are present is confusing and fails to make sense, according to major summer event organisers.
No alcohol was allowed to be sold at the James Blunt concert at the Valletta Waterfront on Thursday after the police interpreted a law banning the sale of alcohol to minors to mean no alcohol can be sold in any place of entertainment where minors are present and this to prevent them being exposed to it.
Asked what legislation was being invoked in support of such interpretation, the police did not reply.
Although alcohol was not allowed to be sold in the concert venue, outside was a stand selling alcoholic drinks.
The executive director of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, Davinia Galea said she was very worried about the implications of this policy.
Most of the events held by the council throughout the summer, such as the Għanafest, the Jazz Festival and the Malta Arts Festival, tended to be family-friendly and such events were sponsored by alcohol brands. A substantial amount of money to hold such heavily-subsidised events came through the bars.
“Interpreting the law this way means banning adults, not under-17s. Take the Għanafest, for instance, the natural context for għana (folk singing) is the Maltese bar, with beer on the table. It’s a culture in itself,” Ms Galea said. “I can’t see what made them do this; it’s illogical.”
Marsovin director Jeremy Cassar said the policy was absurd in a culture where wine was traditionally served at meals.
“In principle, you don’t ban alcohol. It is common sense that if there are children around, people behind the bar should make sure underage people are not served.
“Stopping alcohol being served at events because of children is not the right way to go about it. What we should do is to hold the people running the event accountable. For example, in the wine festival we organise, we don’t allow underage children to come in unaccompanied and we don’t sell tickets or glasses to underage people,” Mr Cassar said.
A spokesman for The Sense Group said the organisation agreed with the principles of law regulating alcohol sales but “to extend it in the way they are interpreted is beyond reason. If they keep interpreting it this way, no alcohol may be sold at feasts, the beer festival can’t happen, the wine festival can’t happen... and I’m sure the drafting of (the laws) was not intended for this situation.”
A spokesman for Farsons, organisers of the popular Beer Festival, one of the biggest live music events on the island, said the latest twist in the interpretation and application of the legal notice caused uncertainty and confusion on the market. The authorities had to clarify the situation, he said.
Questions sent to the Justice Ministry yesterday remained unanswered by the time of writing.