Updated | Cabinet turns down proposal to have snack bars given ‘temporary’ restaurant license

A proposal that would have seen snack bars being granted a temprorary restaurant license, and thus letting them serve alcohol, was shot down by Cabinet on Tuesday

Cabinet has today turned down a proposal to allow snack bars to apply for a temporary restaurant license which would have allowed them to serve alcohol, while bars and kazini are shut down under COVID-19 measures.

The proposal was put forward after new COVID-19 measures introduced by the government last week - closing bars and kazini until 1 December - highlighted the archaic and confusing licensing system that regulates bars, kazini, snack bars, kiosks, restaurants and other type of dining establishments.

Bar owners complained that they had been singled out in the latest round of government measures introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 simply based on the type of license they possessed and not on the merits of mitigating infection as much as possible.

And snack bars, even though they can still open, are – under the terms of their license – not alllowed to sell alcohol.

But with possibly more people now frequenting snack bars following the closures of bars and kazini, many were complaining about the lack of alcohol served with food at snack bars.

MaltaToday is informed that the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association informed its members about the possibility of applying for a temporary license, saying they could send an email to the Malta Tourism Authority.

The applicants would have needed to sign a declaration form, bind them to a set of conditions, at which time the MTA would have issued the temporary license within a month. Under the proposal, the MTA would have inspected the establishments within three months of their application, issuing full restaurant licenses as long as all the criteria are met.

But the Cabinet on Tuesday turned down the proposal. In the meantime, until the Legal Notice introducing the new measures was officially published, three licenses had been issued, as the establishments all met the conditions and criteria to be licensed as restaurants.

Andrew Muscat Azzopardi, CEO of the MHRA, told MaltaToday that the latest government measures had highlighted the need for a major reform in the industry, including with regards to licensing.

“Licensing regulations have been in place for many, many years and do not even reflect today’s reality,” he said. “The MHRA had already stressed the need to make licenses simpler and fairer. The current situation has only served to further accentuate the need for urgent reform.”