The Malta Independent 15 July 2024, Monday
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Restaurants and cafés 'must use common sense when placing seating outside'

Giulia Magri Friday, 29 May 2020, 08:02 Last update: about 5 years ago

Restaurants and cafés must use their common sense when placing extra seating outside and not abuse the situation, Philip Fenech, Deputy President at Malta Chamber of SMEs, told The Malta Independent.

“Every establishment should use their good common sense when it comes to placing extra tables and chairs outside. When they see that they have the space to place more seating, without obstructing the passageway of pedestrians, push-chairs and wheelchairs, then it is fine,” Fenech said.

As of 22 May, restaurants and other catering establishments are now open and welcoming back clients, with new regulations and strict social distancing measures. Due to the required 2m gap between each table, the numbers of tables inside are to be reduced. Prime Minister Robert Abela highlighted this and said that there should be a relaxation of the measures in regards to having tables and chairs outside. “We need to ease up a bit, otherwise we risk leaving everything closed,” he had said.

Contacted by this newsroom, Fenech explained that the relaxation of such a measure is necessary at this time. “We agree on this from both a health perspective, as this is following the social distancing regulations, but also from a business perspective, as this helps provide compensation to those businesses that are losing out due to not being able to have chairs and tables inside,” he said.

Fenech said that such establishments are not to abuse of this measure, or extend seating and chairs in a way which might obstruct passageways or block pavements. When asked how it will be ensured that such establishments do not abuse of using such space, Fenech said that currently MTA are conducting inspections on establishments.

“At the time being, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is inspecting establishments to ensure that the regulations are being followed and not abused of. Usually in normal situations, such inspections would fall under the PA’s role, but for the time being this will be carried out by MTA.”

As the weather heats up, more and more restaurants will start to make use of outdoor seating, applying for the required permits etc. The take-up of pavements and in some cases parking spaces normally brings with it a fair share of controversy. One such situation revolved around the Naxxar Local Council.

The council posted regarding a certain establishment which used parking spaces for outdoor seating. “We condemn the attitude of the authorities who could not care less about the Council and without any consultation whatsoever take decisions which till now are illegitimate. This time it was the Malta Tourism Authority’s turn who allowed the occupation of a public space and reduced the parking spaces in Triq l-Oratorju. What about the health and safety of this restaurant’s clients? What if a vehicle loses control?” the Local Council posted on their social media.

This newsroom contacted Naxxar Deputy Mayor Chris Degura for his opinion on the decision to relax encroachment rules for restaurants and other eatery establishments. “As a local council we wish to safeguard our citizens and help local businesses, but we do not want such temporary decisions to become long-term, as this might cause issues later on. We want to ensure that we safeguard our citizens, especially those with pushchairs and individuals using wheelchairs.” He said that usually restaurants and such establishments need to obtain a permit from the Local Council before extending outdoor space.

Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop also reflected the same thoughts that restaurants and cafes should apply for permits through Local Councils. “Those that have already taken advantage have done so without the approval of Local Council.” He said that initially establishments would request permits from the Local Council, but the relaxing of the encroachment sees that the policy no longer counts.

“We have always been against restaurants extending without any form of permits from us or the Planning Authority. For us this is just a case of abuse. We have issued objections previously when tables and chairs have obstructed a passage way, blocking access for women with pushchairs and wheelchairs.”

He said that the Local Council has received a number of complaints already due to the extending of seating, but unfortunately the Local Council has no authority over the issue. “All we can do is keep complaining to the Planning Authority and the police, but all we can do is complain unfortunately.”


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