One good meal at a mid-range al fresco restaurant with a sea view will set you back more than what the restaurant’s owner is paying the government for placing a table and four chairs in the public space for an entire year.
Information tabled in Parliament shows how the government is surrendering public land cheaply by allowing so-called encroachments – the placing of tables and chairs in public spaces – to mushroom, at advantageous prices, in recent years.
Bar and restaurant owners are being charged a mere €23 per square metre of public areas they occupy.
That charge is not per day, which would already be a bargain compared to most such restaurants’ prices, but, rather, per year.
For those restaurants with permanent canopies, usually without planning permits, the price per square metre will set them back €46.58 per square metre per annum.
The same restaurants pay considerably more per square metre per day in rent to their landlords for the use of the indoor premises.
According to information supplied to Opposition MP Chris Said in parliament, 141 establishments have been granted such encroachment permits in Gozo and Comino alone since 2013.
Thousands more have been given out in Malta although the data has not yet been made available by Lands Minister Silvio Schembri.
Without giving the name of the restaurants or companies incurring encroachment permits (see the list here), supplying the names permit holders instead, the minister explained that in addition to bar and restaurant owners, other organisations have been given permits to occupy large swaths of public land for business purposes.
These included the Gharb parish, the owners of ‘temporary’ mobile kiosks that usually end up occupying public land permanently and a Gozitan resident for use as a private parking space.
The list also includes some well-known Gozitan businessmen including construction magnate Joseph Portelli and the owners of the Calypso Hotel in Marsalforn.
All this public space is supposed to be charged, at least on paper, at the rock bottom price of €23 per square metre per year.
The Shift is informed that the Lands Authority is owed several hundred thousand euros in arrears as many licensees do not bother to pay up and enforcement is practically non-existent.
Sources with knowledge of the issue told The Shift that the situation with tables and chairs across the country has become a “free for all”.
“Apart from the fact that most of the public land being used by bars and restaurants is being used illegally without a permit, enforcement is a joke. The Lands Authority and Malta Tourism Authority enforcement officers are encouraged to go slow,” one official told The Shift on condition of anonymity.
Apart from the requirement of a cheap encroachment permit, owners of commercial establishments are also expected to keep to the rules of such permits.
These include limiting the number of tables and chairs on site, maintaining certain distances, and leaving open spaces for the public to pass through. All these rules are seen to be flagrantly abused every day with impunity.
23€ kull metru kwardu ghal sena waqt li HANZIR jikri post f’ tas Sliema ghal 220€ kuljum.
Sewwa jghamlu la gahan il poplu joqod ghal kollox anzi nirrah jghamlu ghar minhekk kemm tar-restuaranti u kemm dawk li jarmaw id-deckchairs fuq il beaches ghax il poplu biex ma tinqalax xi sigra jmur jipprotesta imbad li ma tistax timxi fuq bankina ghax kollha mimlijin imwejhed u siggijiet ma jimpurtax, laqqas il kunsilli ma jimpurthom l-aqwa li meta jmorru f’xi restaurant tal-lokal taghhom johorgu free.
Lanqas meta tinqala sigra ma jmur jiprotesta! Too busy meghdi fil loan u l kantun
Personally I do NOT use these places which are taking public property to feed their greed.
It would be interesting to know how much exactly the govt is receiving for Pjazza San Ġorġ which now hardly allows pedestrians to cross!