Restaurants want to earn their daily bread
Every morning, while several restaurateurs are setting out their tables and chairs along the Marsaxlokk promenade, six others are stuck in their eateries looking out at hawker stalls taking up the space right across from them.
The six owners complain they are losing business to the competition because they are being deprived of the facility to place their own tables and chairs along the promenade, despite a “simple solution” they have been proposing for three years.
Every day, about 10 hawkers ply their trade along the promenade in front of these restaurants, not only taking up the space but also blocking their view of the sea, which does not do much to attract customers.
At the same time, however, Għajn tal-Ħasselin square nearby lies empty.
According to the restaurateurs, the solution – which also features in the government’s master plan proposal for the area – would be for the hawkers to move to the empty square, allowing both to “earn their daily bread”.
When the tourism and land ministries were asked why the 10 stalls were not moved to the square, a spokesman said the number of hawkers was actually 21.
The hawkers, he said, did not object to the idea of placing a number of stands in the square but they insisted the remaining stalls would still have to be placed along the promenade because the square was too small for them.
The spokesman added that “suitable areas” had been allocated for all the stakeholders following consultations with the Marsaxlokk local council and the Malta Tourism Authority.
The Government Property Department had then submitted an application to the planning authority in January to establish a master plan for the area that creates a balance between the needs of the public, the fishermen of Marsaxlokk, market hawkers and restaurant owners.
However, during the Mepa consultation period, objections were raised by the local council, the hawkers, Transport Malta and some owners.
The property department and the MTA are now holding discussions with the stakeholders to come up with an “equitable solution”. In the meantime, the restaurant owners who spoke to The Times said they felt as if they had come up against a brick wall.
The hawkers have proposed placing their stalls along the promenade between the restaurants and their tables and chairs.
But restaurateurs insist this is impractical because neither the patrons nor the waiters would be visible from the restaurant.
They added that if these two rows were swapped – with tables and chairs placed between the premises and stalls – the patrons’ view of the sea would still be blocked.
In the meantime, the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprise – GRTU has called on the authorities to take action and salvage what’s left of the summer business for these restaurants.
It said the government should ensure a “level playing field” and proceed according to the proposed plan submitted to the planning authority.