Valletta residents have had enough of al fresco encroachment on their walkways

Residenti Beltin founder Billy McBee convenes protest outside House of Representatives against erosion of public access from restaurants

Residents of Valletta will protest in their streets against the erosion of public access due to the ‘al fresco’ encroachment of restaurant chairs tables.

Billy McBee, president of Residenti Beltin, said he was convening the demonstration outside the House of Representatives in Valletta on 6 April, at 11am.

“The encroachment of the private sector through outdoor catering poses a significant threat to safety, sanitation, and the overall well-being of communities. It is imperative that governments take decisive action to assert control over public spaces, ensuring they remain accessible and safe for all,” McBee said.

Valletta residents have comaplined that public access in Valletta is under threat as more catering establishments take up outdoor spaces for tables and chairs.

“What’s at stake here is not merely inconvenience but the erosion of communal services, safety concerns, and the very essence of public space itself,” McBee said. “Picture this: you’re walking down a sidewalk, perhaps enjoying the sunshine and the rhythm of urban life, when suddenly you encounter barricades, platforms, a swarm of menu boards, barrels, cushions, tables, and chairs sprawling out from nearby eateries. What was once a clear path is now obstructed, leaving barely enough space for pedestrians to squeeze through.”

McBee said that one of the most alarming consequences of the al fresco encroachment was the obstruction of emergency pathways. “In the event of a crisis, every second counts, yet the proliferation of privately-owned structures impedes the swift movement of emergency responders. Imagine the chaos that could ensue if ambulances or fire trucks were delayed in reaching their destinations due to blocked pathways.”

McBee also complained that restaurants and bars are neglecting waste management and utility access, with overflowing trash bins, and power lines damaged or obstructed, creating public health risks. “The very infrastructure that supports these businesses is being undermined by their own expansion,” he said.

The founder of Resident Beltin said that while Valletta’s bustling restaurant activity has undoubtedly contributed to the vibrancy of urban life, there was a balance to be struck between economic prosperity and the preservation of public access and safety.

“This necessitates robust regulation and enforcement… Governments must assert their authority in safeguarding public access rights, implementing strict guidelines for outdoor catering establishments to ensure compliance with safety standards and emergency protocols. This includes designated pathways for pedestrians, clear delineation of emergency routes, and regular inspections to prevent obstruction of communal services.”