One of Malta’s leading restaurant lobby groups has suggested that its members delay payments to preferential creditors, warning the sector has been turned into a “sacrificial lamb”.
The Association for Catering Establishments, which represents several restaurants, issued a strongly-worded statement shortly after Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that restaurants will be takeaway-only until at least 11th April.
“ACE encourages its members to manage its already depleted cash flow in a very prudent manner which may also mean the delay of payments of preferential creditors,” it said.
“Authorities have closed establishments the second time, they have forced for strong measures yet the relevant authorities amongst others the Commissioner for Revenue, the Health Authorities and the Malta Business Registry have not taken account of the situation and are rendering businesses insolvent.”
The ACE condemned the closure, warning restaurants are being forced to suffer the brunt because of a lack of enforcement on a few irresponsible operators.
Warning the closures go against the government’s repeated pledge to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods, the ACE said that most catering establishments have observed the protocols but are being fired to pay the price due to the irresponsible behaviour of a few operators.
“Health authorities bullied small micro-enterprises yet did not address the real problem and known regular breaches were left engaging into illegal practices,” the association said.
“It was easy for them to attack the small entrepreneurs rather than addressing the bullies. Catering establishments, bars and clubs have been the continuous target of the Health Authorities showing that the Ministry is very weak in handling the situation and has no real adequate strategy.”
“A year late authorities have not even solved the licensing issues which was also a major issue in certain operations including certain licensed snack bars operating as strip clubs. These were the real issues. Honest businesses suffer, bullies enjoy the flaws of an archaic system.”
It urged Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci to publish the studies she has showing restaurants are a source for COVID-19 transmission and compare it to the transmission rates for mass events in households and other places and in schools.
It also urged the health authorities to publish studies concerning depression and other mental health issues, including suicidal rates of entrepreneurs, in view of the circumstances.
“The process is not a transparent one and the measures taken are only a PR exercise to be seen to be taking measures,” it said. “Catering establishments are not the problem and the Health Authorities are perfectly aware of this. The Government in its PR exercise has made out of restaurants the sacrificial lamb.”
“The ACE condemns the Government attitude taken today whereby it also failed to give the necessary notice to ensure that establishments take care of the existent stock. Will Government be refunding the stock establishments are now stuck with?”
“Also how about rents, water and electricity bills, MTA licenses and other fixed costs. Will Government ensure that the establishments are refunded or will it leave catering establishments as a pure sacrifice to the extent that more closures come into effect?”
“Given the situation, one appreciates the full wage supplement which is however now not enough. In spite of the wage supplement, the establishments have been incurring losses. Members of ACE are already laying off employees in view of the unsustainable circumstance.”