Stuck in limbo and not even eligible for the full wage supplement, the frustrated manager of a popular Paceville snack bar has questioned whether her establishment’s efforts to get compliant with the COVID-19 guidelines were all a waste of time and money.
“We received our compliance sticker, had over 50 inspections by the Malta Tourism Authority and didn’t break a single rule,” the manager, who is staying anonymous, told Lovin Malta.
“Yet we’ve been put in the same basket with everyone else based on our license, as though the virus recognises licenses.”
Last summer, the MTA urged catering establishments to get themselves certified as compliant with a range of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines as a means of fostering consumer confidence. In a now-infamous BBC interview last July, then Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said these stickers would give tourists peace of mind that Malta is a safe country in terms of the virus.
The manager recounted how her establishment had to buy visors and masks for guests, single-use clothing in case someone vomits, yellow garbage bins for toxic waste, and a first-aid box for every 50 people.
They had to carry out a full system disinfection of the water system, check the operation temperature of their washing machine, and ensure a 3m distance between tables indoors and a 2m distance outdoors, and put up signage to remind people to keep their distance from each other and to sanitise their hands.
This particular establishment hired an extra security official to monitor whether its patrons were following the COVID-19 rules, such as wearing masks when getting up to go to the toilet.
Last month, the government announced the closure of all bars and restrictions on snack bars, forbidding them from selling alcoholic beverages and from staying open past 11pm.
Establishments licensed as restaurants have been allowed to remain open with no curfew or alcohol restrictions.
However, many establishments licensed as snack bars are de facto restaurants, and several snack bar owners have denounced the situation as completely unfair.
The snack bar manager in question had to close down her establishment anyway because the alcohol restrictions rendered the operation completely unfeasible.
However, unlike bar staff, her snack bar’s staff aren’t eligible for the government’s full COVID-19 wage supplement, because they are technically still allowed to open.
And although the restrictions were originally set to expire on 1st December, she highly doubts this will be the case seeing as Malta is still registering a high number of daily COVID-19 cases.
“We’re in limbo,” she admitted. “We tried to get licensed as a restaurant but were told that health inspections on restaurants have stopped. We’re not being allowed to work but we’re not entitled to the full Annex A wage supplement.”
She proposed that the government stops assessing catering establishments by their license when deciding to impose restrictions but whether they’ve obtained their COVID-19 compliance sticker or not
“There are establishments in Paceville who don’t have compliance stickers but who are allowed to operate as normal because they have restaurant licenses.”
“What was the point of getting those stickers in the first place except for the extra expense?”
Cover photo: Stock photos
What do you make of this snack bar manager’s assessment?