د . إAEDSRر . س

‘We’re A Business, Not A Hobby’: Malta’s Night Economy Remains In The Dark Over Restriction Removal 

Article Featured Image

Despite Malta recently removing several COVID-19 restrictions, with even quarantine for primary contacts on the cards for elimination, nightclubs remain completely in the dark about their future.

Not only must they keep limiting access to people with valid vaccine certificates but they are only allowed to host seated events and must shut their doors at 1am.

Gianpula owner Matthew DeGiorgio expressed his disappointment that Health Minister Chris Fearne didn’t announce any plans for nightclubs in his latest restriction-easing announcement

“Fearne didn’t mention anything about when standing events can return,” he told Lovin Malta. “It’s like we don’t even exist to him, as though we’re third-class citizens and as though we aren’t businesses who employ people.”

“Now that 75% of the adult population has been boosted, I was expecting him to announce a date for when standing events and standing weddings can return. However, they’re speaking about village feasts [that they could return this summer] because the election is approaching.”

Gianpula owner Matthew Degiorgio

Gianpula owner Matthew Degiorgio

DeGiorgio said that nightclubs deserve to know when the health authorities intend to allow them to start functioning normally so that they can plan the months ahead accordingly.

“The world is opening up and we don’t even have a plan yet… just give us a date and let us work with it and plan accordingly.”

“Nightclubs aren’t a hobby but a business like any other, a full-time job that employs full-time employees. No other business but nightclubs have had to entirely change their business model… restaurants have had to serve fewer tables but nightclubs weren’t allowed to have people standing up.”

Philip Fenech, deputy president of the Chamber of SMEs and responsible for tourism and hospitality, said that while the hospitality industry reacted positively to the easing of restrictions, the authorities should provide a clearer picture on the future of the night economy.

“We must remember that there is a large cluster of businesses, whose most productive trading hours are between 1am and 4am,” Fenech said. “The authorities view this sector as more COVID-distressing because it’s activity is more vibrant than that of restaurants, każini and snack bars and brings people together in a more intimate way.”

“The government always leaves this industry for last but now that there’s clear visibility on how the virus has been contained, the sector is expecting to have a projection so they can start planning events. The industry is a high-cost business which can’t simply switch on from one day to the next but which requires time to plan events.”

Fenech warned that the current 1am curfew means establishment owners are being forced to pay their full-time staff for hours they’re not working in and are struggling to find part-timers willing to work for so few hours.

Chamber of SMEs deputy president Philip Fenech

Chamber of SMEs deputy president Philip Fenech

“Establishment owners need their staff but it’s tough on them that they’re being forced to pay them the same salary for roughly half the amount of hours, if not less, without the revenue coming in to justify it.”

Fenech urged the authorities not to ignore the importance of the night economy, which includes nightclubs as well as late-night eateries and transport, to the national economy and the country’s tourism product.

“As it stands, some people aren’t seeing it worthwhile to go out for a few hours and are organising their own house parties, which is a further blow to the industry,” he said.

“Some of the best clubs in Paceville and other areas have upgraded themselves during their COVID-19 downtime and we need to help the industry survive.”

Despite the uncertainty, Fenech stood up for the health authorities for the way they’ve handled the vaccine certificate controversy.

“The government was scared that Mater Dei would end up inundated with COVID-19 patients given the rise in cases a few weeks ago, and the restrictions must be seen in that context.”

“In an ideal situation, everything would return to where it was before the pandemic but we all know where a free-for-all approach took us [in summer 2020]. Had we gone down that route, we’d have ended up with a full lockdown or full hospitals.”

“We’re in uncharted territory and absolutism doesn’t and cannot exist. Venting out is cheap and I believe in finding realistic solutions and pointing out shortcomings so that they can be improved. We are at the shop floor level, monitoring the situation day by day with our own eyes.”

Do you think nightclubs should be allowed to function normally? 

READ NEXT: ‘We Want Our Weddings Back’: Malta's Brides Launch Petition To Update COVID-19 Rules

Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

You may also love

View All