Paceville is no longer the eerily silent zone it was during lockdown but neither is it the bustling nightlife hub it used to be before COVID-19 struck the world or during that brief period this summer when the island resembled a post-pandemic utopia.
Not only has tourism taken a hit, but the locals seeking a night out aren’t as spoiled for choice as they used to be as a result of new restrictions imposed two weeks ago.
Philip Fenech, the deputy head of the Chambers of SMEs, noted that many Paceville establishments, including Havana, Club 22, Big G’s, Sky Club, Footloose, Clique, Shadow, Passion and White Palace, have all closed down as have other popular non-Paceville nightclubs such as Gianpula and Uno Village.
“Some of these only had a license to operate as a nightclub and aren’t allowed to operate under the new restrictions while some are legally allowed to open but it’s not feasible for them due to reduced capacity and higher costs,” Fenech told Lovin Malta.
Some night clubs tried to revamp entirely as lounge bars, placing sofas and tables on the dance floor. However, some, like Havana, decided it wasn’t feasible.
“Most people who frequent Paceville don’t tend to look for a lounge bar experience but for a totally different night club ambience,” Fenech said.
Some gentleman’s clubs have remained open, but with fresh restrictions, including dancers wearing masks and reduced capacity inside the establishment to ensure they adhere to social distancing protocols.
Meanwhile, while some bottle shops like Big Gs have temporarily closed down, others have remained open but on a strict take-out basis.
And the outlets that have opted to remain open have adapted to the new restrictions, such as by placing tables in front of bars to block customers from approaching it and by placing tables and chairs outside to utilise as much space as possible without cramming patrons next to each other.
Fenech spoke out after receiving a critical anonymous letter, which was also addressed to the Tourism Ministry, the police, the Opposition leader, the Archbishop and a number of other lobby groups and media houses.
In this letter, a person describing him/herself as an eyewitness warned that activity in Paceville is still going on “as though coronavirus were simply a hoax” despite the recent restrictions which forced night clubs to close and bars to adapt to a restaurant atmosphere.
“The clubs’ managers are running their clubs in full anarchy as they know that the police are as blind as a bat,” the letter read. “The police prefer to go round the wording of the legal notice rather than set foot in the clubs to see the reality with their own eyes.”
However, Fenech dismissed these suggestions, arguing that the person who wrote this letter clearly hadn’t visited Paceville since the new restrictions kicked in two weeks ago.
“Some of the most popular places have either been forced to close down or have taken the decision to close down themselves,” he said. “Meanwhile, MTA and heath officials, as well as police, are inspecting establishments on a daily basis and a few outlets have been reprimanded.”
It’s an altogether different reality for Paceville than was the case when bars and clubs were allowed to reopen last June following months of COVID-19 induced closure. Back then, although many establishments followed the COVID-19 guidelines, packed crowds often convened outside.
Malta witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past month, with one of the largest clusters linked to Paceville. However, there have recently been some signs that the situation is being reined in, with the number of active cases dropping from a high point of 699 on 20th August to 538 today.
All photos taken last Friday night