Economy Minister Silvio Schembri has urged businesses to update their Malta Tourism Authority licenses to ensure they don’t unnecessarily suffer the brunt of COVID-19 measures.
New restrictions mean establishments licensed as bars must close down entirely, those licensed as snack bars must close down at 11pm and cannot sell alcohol, while those licensed as restaurants can remain open.
These rules mean the beloved pastizzeria Is-Serkin has had to close down because it’s been licensed as a bar since the early 1980s, while the McDonald’s drive-thru has had to stop operating 24/7 because it’s licensed as a snack bar.
Asked by Lovin Malta whether the government will analyse these businesses on a case by case basis, Schembri urged establishments to make sure they’re properly licensed.
“When we were issuing wage supplements and classified businesses according to their NACE Codes, we realised that some businesses had registered for a VAT number twenty years ago when they were conducting one type of activity, but have since changed their activity,” he recounted.
“Their registration meant they could have been classified under different annexes [which would have affected how much wage supplement they were due] and they were given a chance to update their NACE Codes and eventually register properly. These businesses must also ensure their license reflects their operation.”
Schembri also warned the pain expressed by bar owners since the latest restrictions is only a taste of what will happen if the government imposes a lockdown.
“The lockdown experience of other countries showed us it wasn’t the right path,” he said. “People are suffering because we closed down a small section of economic activity, so imagine if we had closed down the entire economy.”
“A small decision made many people and families suffer so imagine how many more people would be suffering if we listened to the Opposition’s advice for a lockdown.”
“We didn’t want this suffering. We want to keep studying the situation and take wise decisions at the right moment. You can’t just compare parts of what other countries have done with us because with that logic, we released the best economic regeneration plan and have the lowest unemployment in Europe.”
“I dont think we want the unemployment of New Zealand, Spain or Greece so lets’ ensure we decide what measures to take collectively and holistically. I think people realise, that despite the large challenges and suffering, the government is doing its utmost to ease the burden and make sure we emerge from this situation as soon as possible.”