'Discriminatory' Covid-19 measures has bar owners blaming license type

While some bars and clubs are to close, snack bars and other eateries will remain open, depending on the trading license in their possession


Bar owners are incensed at what they describe as discrimination after new measures introduced earlier this week as part of the effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 will see bars and kazini shut their doors until the end of November.

At the same time, snack bars, cafeterias, restaurants, kiosks and other dining establishments will be able to remain open under existing regulations, including social distancing, group size and mask-wearing.

The new measures also mean that snack bars, which can remain open, will no longer be able to serve alcohol at the bar.

“These measures are not based on any logic whatsoever, and do not make sense when you compare the number of patrons that attend bars and kazini with the number that go to restaurants and other establishments,” the owner of a bar in Paola told BusinessToday. “These rules were a lotto draw, depending on which piece of paper you own.”

He was referring to the license issues to business owners and which distinuguishes between bars, snack bars, kiosks, restauarts and cafeterias.

“I own a bar and can no longer operate. The bar down the street, because they also serve ftiras and chips, they can stay open, keep serving their customers and now also take my clientele as well,” the owner said.

And although he does not employ any full-time staff, he said his part-time weekend bar staff, as well as part-time cleaners, would all suffer. “I cannot afford to pay them when I am not taking in a cent myself,” he said. “You do not become rich off this business, even in normal circumstances. But these measures will kill a lot of us.”

Julian, owner of a bar in Rabat, agreed.

“I do not see why we were the ones targeted in this latest round of measures,” he said. “This seems like a half-hearted attempt by the authorities at appearing like they are staying on the game, when in fact they are just creating clear divides in sectors that have previously never known such division.”

Julian said he was still hoping the authorities would withdraw the directives before they even come into effect. “They have done it in the past, or maybe they might allow us to start serving some crisps or peanuts with drinks, making us something other than just bars.”

His comments refers to a decision in August to allow establishments that serve their customers snacks, even if simply a packets of crisps, to stay open, even after authorities had said they should close.

The Medical Association of Malta had said back then that a bag of crisps and a drink did not modify a bar’s licence.

And it is those different types of licenses that will see some outlets remain open while others pull down their shutters for a month.

One bar owner, who possesses a retail license and can sell some products off his shelves, said that he would be staying open.

“I am sorry for my fellow bar owners who have to close their businesses, but I see no reason why I should when I have a retail license,” he said. “Of course, I will not be selling alcohol at the bar, but I can sell everything else.”

More in Business