Leading Maltese chef Rafel Sammut has hit out at the Malta Tourism Authority for “taking people for a ride” after the regulator published Instagram stories of its officials enforcing catering establishments along the Strand.
“Are they serious? Should one laugh or cry?” Sammut, who runs the Victory Kitchen initiative, questioned.
“You had months to close down all those restaurants acting as bars. It was evident who they were when simply driving by. Everyone knew who they were but the MTA didn’t? And if you did, why weren’t any licenses revoked?”
“Now you’re going around establishments along the Strand? Stop taking us for a ride.”
“Many bar and restaurant owners, suppliers and staff are going through a very tough time, don’t play these immature games.”
“You had the chance to enforce and regulate, if this was done properly we would still be in operation. You failed.”
This week, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that restaurants will have to close down, except for takeaway and delivery, until at least 11th April due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
These restrictions caught many restaurateurs off guard – Health Minister Chris Fearne had said a week earlier that restaurants’ curfew will be extended from 11pm till midnight and Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci had said a day earlier that restaurants aren’t risky environments if they follow the COVID-19 rules.
Several fingers have been pointed at the authorities for failing to enforce the law and for not taking enough action against restaurants that converted themselves into bars. The Strand, along the coast of Gżira and Sliema, was often highlighted as a hotspot for such establishments.
However, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has defended the MTA’s level of enforcement, noting that three catering establishments were forced to shut down in February alone for breaching COVID-19 rules.
A total of 22 establishments were found to be in breach of the 11pm closing-time rule and another 20 establishments were found in breach of the protocols.