‘24% of catering establishments considering not re-opening their doors’ – ACE president

Reuben Buttigieg, President of the Association of Catering Establishments

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January, 2021 at 9:47 am by Andre Camilleri

“A further 5% have closed their doors for good” Reuben Buttigieg, president of the Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) revealed to The Malta Business Weekly, regarding members of the entity.

He continued: “The notion of any such curfews to be introduced to establishments will be the proverbial ‘throw off the cliff’ for businesses hanging on right now. It won’t solve the issue; people will congregate earlier to go out for dinner.”

When asked which localities were hit the worst, Buttigieg replied: “January is historically a tough month for any business, let alone with the addition of Covid-19. Although everyone has been hit harder this year, the south of Malta is dire. Business owners in areas such as Marsascala, Marsaxlokk and Birzebbuga are particularly suffering. We are a sector that desperately needs numbers and tourists – and we don’t have them.”

Speaking to this newsroom, Buttigieg added: “What’s more, it’s widely known that people are coming together in private residences and hiring temporary accommodation to hold gatherings, particularly in Gozo. Right now, it seems like the elephant in the room, we all know this is happening and we are all turning a blind eye.”

He continued “while enforcement may be difficult, I believe a wider police presence on the streets may deter large groups. Given the circumstances we welcome the moderate and balanced measures announced by the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

This certainly needed to be addressed on specific holidays and festas such as the upcoming carnival period, as we know such activities increase during these times. When fully adhering to protocols, there’s no evidence to suggest restaurants are virus hotspots.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced new measures targeting the carnival weekend. Among the new measures, restaurants will now have to close at 11 pm, and the Gozo Channel vessels will run at half-capacity.

In addition, the Malta Tourism Authority will also be running more checks on temporary accommodation places to make sure that they are adhering to the stipulations on their licenses – particularly on how many people they can host.

Other measures, such as the closure of bars and clubs, and restrictions on snack bars, have also been extended.

The measures will come amid concerns that many people will once again mingle with each other during the carnival weekend, which could cause an increase in cases similar to what was experienced following the Christmas period.
Buttigieg also supported the decision to postpone the voucher scheme until numbers are lower and welcomes the proposed National Strategy for Tourism.

The vouchers, totalling €100, were meant to be issued this month to all Maltese residents over 16. In a statement, the economy ministry said that all preparations for the distribution of vouchers is complete but it was consulting with health authorities and other stakeholders to discuss when the vouchers would be most beneficial to the local economy.

“The aim of the vouchers is to stimulate the economy with an injection of €45m that will generate business and improve quality of life,” minister Silvio Schembri added.

ACE continues to encourage its members to observe protocols while it also urges the authorities to educate further on the protocols and the dangers of gatherings beyond those allowed wherever they occur.

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