As clubs and bars remain completely closed for months, reports of drunken incidents still occurring in hotspots like Paceville led to the Police Association raising the alarm.
However, a few visits to key areas as well as less busy streets, has shown the disparity in enforcement in certain areas, while also revealing methods some venues are employing to remain open, serve customers and not be shut down by Malta Tourism Authority officials.
Current laws dictate that snack bars cannot sell alcohol; restaurants can, but they have to conform with COVID-19 standards, such as the appropriate amount of sanitisers and having tables adequately distanced.
1. Some places have resorted to placing platters at drinkers tables without them asking.
Imagine entering a restaurant, ordering drinks and getting those drinks along with a platter of food you didn’t order. You and your group don’t eat it – but it’s on your bill when you go to pay. Consider it the new price of drinking during COVID-19.
But it does depend on where you are planning on drinking. Lovin Malta tried to enter Hugo’s Baccos in Paceville for a drink, only to be told that we need a reservation to even enter. Similarly, Dubliners’ in Spinola Bay said each person who would like an alcoholic drink needed to order a main meal.
With fears that people may be gathering in Paceville, it seems like these establishments – the few that remain open that is – are very aware of how everyone is just waiting for them to mess up, and are following guidelines to the T.
2. However, in quieter, more central towns, various venues were coming up with lowkey ways to serve customers alcohol.
One popular venue in a town’s main square has started serving cocktails and other alcoholic drinks in cappuccino cups. By changing the serving vessel, it becomes that much harder for officials to find any alcohol served illegally.
However, at least one woman told Lovin Malta she wasn’t aware of this and was very surprised to find her gin and tonic served in a medium-sized cardboard takeaway cup. She hadn’t been informed by the tender – but, after overcoming the initial confusion, happily drank her drink.
3. Early on in the pandemic, there had been complaints of some venues giving drinkers a bowl of chips or olives as an excuse for them to drink.
However, months on, and any venues that have somehow remained open, have had to adapt to smarter ways.
4. Some places had the foresight to make the situation easier for themselves and change their venue license to a restaurant license.
Restaurants can remain open late, and serve alcohol once the food is bought. However, some restaurants have taken the lacuna that’s developed with bars and clubs closed to open until 4am, serving beers a-plenty.
With some areas facing strict enforcement, others freer to find ways to serve customers and some venues trying to attract (and keep) as much clientele as they can, it may be time to look at these policies once more to make sure they are working fairly – and as they were intended.