Tourism and Culture Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco has questioned the police’s interpretation of the law to controversially ban alcohol at the James Blunt concert venue last Thursday.

Dr de Marco said the law had never been applied this way before, and that if no sensible solution was found it must be amended “to make sense of a nonsensical situation”.

The law states that “a place of entertainment cannot sell alcohol if there are minors” but last Thursday police construed this to mean alcohol could not be sold if under 17s were present.

The prohibition was based on a 1995 legal notice last amended in 2009, intended to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors and to provide access to places of entertainment if no alcohol is provided.

The ‘maintenance of good order at places of entertainment regulations’ (LN 124 of 1995) states that “persons under the age of 16 shall not be allowed inside a place of entertainment, and young persons over the age of 16 years shall prior to admission to any such place of entertainment produce and show their identity card to the proprietor”.

The minimum age was revised upwards to 17 in 2009 to be consistent with the revised minimum drinking age. Places of entertainment are defined as ‘any dancing hall, discotheque or dancing theatre (except staged dance shows) and includes any other premises licensed for the sale of wine, beer and spirits where any entertainment show or dancing is carried out’.

“I seriously doubt if the intention was to apply this legal notice to festivals. Indeed it was never so applied,” Dr de Marco told The Sunday Times.

“From what I understood, the police were interpreting the definition of ‘places of entertainment’ in the Legal Notice (which also includes open areas) to also apply to open air concerts.

“While I strongly disapprove of the sale of alcohol to minors or under 17s, as stated in the law, I do not believe it makes sense to prohibit the sale of alcohol in festivals and con-certs which draw crowds of all ages.

“As someone stated on Facebook, you can’t have a wine festival without wine, or a beer festival without beer,” Dr de Marco said.

“Given that such festivals draw families, I don’t expect people to leave their children at home. I assume Maltese families are responsible enough not to buy alcohol for their children, and the bartenders responsible enough not to sell alcohol to minors.

“I hope a sensible solution is found that serves the interests of common sense while protecting the interests of minors,” said Dr de Marco, who is a lawyer by profession.

“If not, then we need to change the law to make sense of a nonsensical situation.”

Summer festival organisers told TheTimes yesterday they were concerned this ban would affect their events open to families.

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