A fraction of restaurants in Malta open today after months of dealing with new delivery services, trying not to fire anyone and acquiring copious amounts of hand sanitiser.
But as they are being urged by the government to reopen their doors to the public following a week of rising COVID-19 numbers, Maltese restaurateurs are feeling like they’ve been forced into a costly and scary situation.
“Mark my words – 40% of Malta’s restaurants will be liquidated within months” – Maltese restaurateur
One popular and long-standing Mġarr restaurant that’s been surviving on deliveries over the last three months is scrambling to meet the MTA’s ever-changing requirements to open today.
They aren’t going to make it, and will be sticking to deliveries this weekend – but while they are worried for their restaurant, they are even more concerned about the rest of the industry.
“Those restaurants that rely on tourism, or the newer places, they are going to really feel it,” the owner told Lovin Malta. “In a few months, I believe we will be seeing 40% of restaurants closing down.”
A Mosta restaurateur who was hoping to open today spoke about the sudden new costs he’s had to accept.
“I just spent €240 on some hand sanitiser,” he says. “We’ve been measuring the restaurant for days, we will be operating at about 10% capacity.”
There is also confusion over masks. While some restaurants had all employees wearing masks, others only had some… or none at all.
A lot of places feel like they were caught on the wrong foot after the government gave Maltese restaurants just three days to get their operations in order for today.
At first, they were given a list of measures they needed to undertake before opening – an MTA inspection, a water inspection, filling out a form to become certified, then having to fill out a daily form after that. Being open to spot checks, ensuring the appropriate distance between tables, and indeed clients, and making sure all employees are wearing a mask or visor at all times… the list went on.
The fact that the MTA changed some measures over the last week didn’t help either.
However, not all restaurants were resting on their laurels.
One Mosta restaurant took the time to do some refurbishments while experimenting with a new menu. Indeed, quite a few restaurants worked on new menus – but the Mosta restaurant owner was under no illusions.
“I’ve just spent the last week getting the place ready… but with the COVID-19 numbers rising, I wouldn’t be surprised if I close back down in two weeks,” he said.
Restaurants that work with speciality ingredients or harder to source flavours were especially hit by the sudden reopening.
One Maltese speciality restaurant in Mellieħa is not opening today – it’s not even offering takeaway or delivery services – the majority of their customers were tourists who want to try rabbit or some other typical dish.
But reopening the restaurant isn’t even the biggest worry on this owner’s mind. He wasn’t scared for his restaurant – he was scared for his, and the country’s, collective health.
Malta’s restaurant and hospitality industry has been savaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those that were able to survive until now are at a crossroads – spend more money than ever before to reopen to a fraction of the revenue previously enjoyed, or remain closed and face having no revenue.