The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Gozitan restaurants ‘optimistic’ for the summer ahead

Albert Galea Wednesday, 9 June 2021, 08:11 Last update: about 9 days ago

Gozitan restaurants have told The Malta Independent of their optimism for the summer ahead, as they keep their fingers crossed that the Covid-19 situation will be such that they will not have to close their doors again.

Restaurants reopened midway through May after being closed for two months or so owing to an increase in Covid-19 cases – the second time they were forced to physically close their doors in the space of a year.

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With a limited market locally and a reliance on Maltese patrons and tourists, Gozitan restaurants were especially hard hit – even if they could offer take-aways while they were closed.

The Malta Independent spoke with restaurant owners in Marsalforn, Xlendi, and Rabat to get their views on how the reopening has gone so far and whether they think business will make a strong return over the course of summer.

All restaurants expressed their optimism in particular for the coming summer, while they also spoke of an almost immediate rebound in clients as soon as they reopened their doors.

“As soon as we opened, especially the first weekend, we had a boom in business: a lot of Maltese came up to Gozo”, one restaurant owner in Marsalforn said.

A long-time café owner in Rabat said the same thing, adding that the worst part about being closed was the lack of anything to do: “The worst was when we were closed.  We had the wage scheme to keep everyone going, yes, but where can you go?  Even if we were open for just Gozitans – you can get by with the regulars, but we couldn’t do anything.”

Another restaurant owner in Xlendi gave a more insightful view on their period of closure.

“When at the end of the year the number of cases started to increase, we realised that we might have to close again –so it was in the back of our minds every day.  In fact, normally in Christmas we close for a bit but we decided not to do that this time because we could tell that there was going to be a time when we would have to close again”, she told this newsroom.

The owner added that when the news broke that they would have to close, they brought their workers together, assured them that they would keep their jobs and have the wage supplement, and said that they then decided to carry out some refurbishment works at their restaurant.

“Many of our workers are foreign.  My husband and I lived abroad, so we know what it’s like to live in a different country – they have nobody, we are their family, and we couldn’t abandon them. It was a time where we worked differently, but we made sure not to leave them alone at home”, she said.

The Covid-19 wage supplement was essential in that it meant that workers didn’t have the anxiety that they might not receive a pay cheque.

The reopening week was strong here too: “When we reopened the first time, things were a bit slow, but this time we had people calling to book places even before we had opened”, she said.

All in all, the restaurant owners are optimistic for the coming summer.

All of them spoke of the importance of the voucher scheme – which kicked off on Monday – as something which would help bring Maltese to their doors, and were hopeful for the reopening of tourism.

The café owner in Rabat was particularly optimistic about the return of tourists: “Of course we’re optimistic.  As long as cases remain low, they will come.  We don’t need 3 million [tourists]; if we get 1 million good tourists, we can live like kings.”

“Hopefully we don’t have to close again. I appeal to my friends in the industry to not be greedy – if we follow the rules, we can remain open.  If you are greedy, we might have to close again.  The rules are there to help us, not to act as a noose around our necks”, the Xlendi restaurant owner said.

 

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