Updated 12.30pm with MTA response
Temporary permits issued to restaurants and cafes to extend their outdoor seating have been revoked, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said.
“All catering establishments which had this temporary permit have received a letter informing them that the permit has stopped,” Bartolo told Times of Malta.
Last summer, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) allowed catering establishments to set up tables and chairs outside their enclosed area, with the temporary permission provided due to the then ongoing coronavirus virus restrictions.
Back then, restaurants and snack bars had to follow strict protocols, ensuring that there was a two-metre gap between tables and only serving restricted groups seated together.
A year on, while most COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, residents across the island have voiced their anger as restaurants take up pavements and promenades.
Now many restaurants, cafes and kiosks have filed applications with the Planning Authority to make their ‘new’ outdoor areas permanent.
The boom in outdoor catering space has been a headache for residents in places such as Sliema, Valletta and Marsascala for years, yet, the issue has persisted and got worse in recent years.
Bartolo said that the MTA is ensuring establishments follow the rules, adding the authority had also carried out enforcement exercises in Sliema and Valletta last week.
“We are aware of what the people are facing and we want to be proactive,” he said.
When asked if any establishments were caught breaching the rules during the inspections, Bartolo replied: “What I can say is that my mind is at rest that work is taking place. Maybe we did not go all around Malta but work is taking place. We went to Sliema, Valletta and we will be visiting other places in the weeks to come.”
MTA said its preliminary exercise in Sliema, carried out two weeks ago, inspected 40 establishments, that were "informed that they should abide by their respective encroachment permits."
It said the matter regarding tables and chairs was not solely the responsibility of the MTA but also involved the local council, police, the lands authority, LESA and the planning authority.
"In the coming days the intention is to target specific areas, not just individual establishments to ensure that they are abiding by the permits," it said.
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