Yesterday, I hit up a bar in Valletta to check just how different these regulations are making the whole ‘bar experience’ in Malta, and whether they’re actually helping stop the spread of COVID-19.
While certain restrictions are to be commended – that is, when they are followed – there is no denying that others have proven to be blatantly useless.
Just as my friends and I sat down and ordered our first round of drinks, our waiter – sporting a visor – hovered awkwardly at our table.
“You need to order food,” the waiter said. “It’s the law.”
“Fair enough”, we thought, so we mindlessly ordered a single bowl of sweet potato fries. Needless to say, the fries were practically decimated in a matter of minutes.
After that first order of fries, my friends and I went on to buy another round of drinks – then another, and so on and so forth.
By the end of our stay, we had easily ploughed through a good five rounds of cocktails – and one bowl of sweet potato fries.
As random as this situation might seem, it truly brought to light the futility of the infamous ‘Legal notice 334 of 2020’ – which states that “bars and clubs (każini) shall only serve food, and drinks with food, and only to customers sitting at tables.”
How exactly would the absence of a bowl of fries at table put me and other people at an increased risk of contracting and passing on the virus?
Buying a snack essentially made it ‘legal’ for a group of adults to purchase as much alcohol as they wanted at a bar – provided they remained seated and maintained social distancing with other patrons throughout.
But then again – why should customers be required to purchase a ridiculously small amount of food to be allowed to enjoy a drink outdoors?
Of course, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) addressed claims of the so-called ‘crisps loophole’, saying “the emphasis is on the concept of a customer sitting at a table and not walking around, with relative social distancing in place.”
Nonetheless, despite authorities’ attempts to ‘backtrack’ on the aforementioned legal notice, it’s safe to say that most bars are already earnestly exercising it.
On the bright side, the ‘crisps loophole’ is encouraging consumers to spend a little bit more at bars and pubs – and if there’s one thing bar owners need now more than ever, it’s money.
So hey, maybe this wasn’t just a big fluke after all.