Editorial | The outdoor music saga

A simple solution like this would ensure sound levels on the outside are brought down to acceptable levels and any breach could be detected through the instrument


The Pacevillisation of Valletta risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg, something that no bona fide operator in the capital wants to see.

Valletta’s revival over the past seven years is to be applauded. It has seen boutique hotels mushrooming, restaurants and bars remaining until late, and cultural events that draw the crowds. The capital’s nightlife has provided a soberer alternative to other nightspots on the island.

But this new lease of life must not be undermined by unbridled change that will neutralise Valletta’s uniqueness and in the process anger residents.

In the latest turn of events government published a legal notice at the start of June by which opening times of bars, restaurants and entertainment establishments in seven Valletta streets were extended to 2am. The same legal notice, however, also extended the time until when outdoor music can be played to 1am from 11pm. Two more Valletta streets were added to the list early this week.

It was not the extended opening time that caused concern but the second part that allowed outdoor music to continue being played until 1am.

Understandably, it was residents who first objected vehemently to the 1am cut off time for outdoor music, followed by the Malta Developers Association and other organisations.

The way Valletta has developed over the years has not allowed for the creation of zoning and entertainment establishments sit right below residential apartment blocks in narrow streets.

This requires clear and balanced rules of cohabitation to ensure residents’ wellbeing is safeguarded, while businesses are allowed to operate and patrons permitted to enjoy themselves.

Finding the right balance is never easy but a concerted attempt has to be done by bringing all stakeholders around the table.

It makes sense to allow establishments to open until 2am and this does not seem to be the bone of contention.

But booming noise until 1am is obviously a massive inconvenience to neighbours, most of who are elderly people.

Valletta already plays host to numerous national events, which require music or sound being played after 11pm. Adding to this, the daily extension of playing hours for bars and restaurants would create problems of a permanent nature for the local community.

These concerns cannot be ignored because they will backfire.

The first question that needs to be asked is whether outdoor music in these establishments is an absolute necessity after 11pm. Arguments in favour must be evidence-based.

It is only then that a decision can be taken on how this could be best achieved with the least inconvenience.

But even in taking this decision the authorities must adopt a holistic view that takes into consideration Valletta’s unique selling proposition for the touristic and entertainment sector.

However, beyond the issue of Valletta, the inconvenience caused by loud music to neighbours is something that must be addressed in a concerted way.

In a review of the Maltese justice system carried out in 2014, a commission chaired by retired judge Giovanni Bonello had produced two volumes of proposals to improve efficiency.

A minor proposal concerned complaints and charges related to loud music emanating from bars and entertainment establishments that were an inconvenience to neighbours. The Bonello Commission had proposed the introduction of sound limiters as a condition attached to bar and club licences to cut down on the number of complaints related to sound. This would free up the police from having to chase these minor complaints and prevent the law courts from being hogged with such cases.

A simple solution like this would ensure sound levels on the outside are brought down to acceptable levels and any breach could be detected through the instrument.

Malta is noisy. Noise is part and parcel of our Mediterranean culture but it should not define every street of the country, let alone the capital.

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