Concerns have been raised over eager benefactors taking advantage of the government’s al fresco dining policy, with a new structure putting a spotlight on the rows of tables and chairs now lining the centre of Valletta’s busiest pedestrian roads, Merchants Street.
Christian Micallef, the minority leader in the Valletta Local Council, raised the alarm that a new set of what seems to be semi-permanent structures have taken up a large chunk of a part of the often-visited street.
“I will not accept this obscenity. There is a limit to everything. This limit has now been exceeded,” Micallef wrote on social media.
Micallef revealed that he has already brought up the issue with Valletta’s mayor, Alfred Zammit, pledging to fight the issue.
“This is the moment where political parties show that the residents come first and foremost,” he said.
The latest application was submitted by AX Holdings to provide tables and chairs in front of the Roselli Hotel, which it owns. The hotel hosts a number of restaurants, namely the Michelin-starred Under Grain.
However, the application is just the latest in a long line of restaurants and coffee shops that have occupied the street, with tables and chairs taking over large chunks of the iconic street.
The issue is nothing new with local councillors across Valletta, Sliema, St Julian’s, and others raising concerns over the practice.
Still, in practically all cases, there has been no consultation with local councils.
PN MP Claudio Grech also weighed in on the issue, noting that a year ago he had warned that Valletta had become a playground for those looking to make money while residents were robbed of public spaces.
“What is being erected today is the proof of all this. The government has so shame,” he said.
The ‘tables and chairs’ policy, which was introduced in 2013 and targeted at promoting an ‘al fresco’ experience in touristic hubs, has been controversial with eager restauranteurs occupying more and more of Malta’s public spaces.
The initiative has also been plagued by numerous abuses, while new policies aimed at curtailing encroachment abuse appears to have yielded few results, with daily illegalities regularly witnessed by residents.
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