Malta being a Mediterranean island nation with favourable weather has become a hotbed for tourists seeking sun, sea, and nightlife.

Over the years the country has developed a number of distinct areas with a concentration of nightclubs, namely the Paceville district and the coast surrounding St Julians, Qawra and Bugibba which attract both locals and tourists alike. There are also several nightclubs spread out across Malta beyond of the coastline.

While there is no clear data on the size of the nightclub industry, it is definitely not insignificant, with countless individuals enjoying its services, which require bartenders, DJs, security guards, cleaners and more.

Unfortunately, the licensing system regulated by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) does not necessarily make it clear how many nightclubs exist in the country. While there is a distinct licence for discos and nightclubs, a number of well-known nightclubs are licenced as bars.

At the time of writing, there were a total of 12 places officially licenced as nightclubs. Meanwhile, there were a total of 480 venues registered as bars.

According to the catering establishment regulations, a nightclub is a venue where the primary purpose is the provision of live entertainment or singing, as well as the sale of beverages. A bar is an establishment where the primary purpose is the sale of beverages for consumption on the premises, however, it does not exclude the provision of live entertainment.

The main difference is that venues registered as nightclubs can offer guests food.

dancefloor party dance pexels

Regulation and Stakeholders

The main regulator for the industry is the MTA and it is primarily responsible for the issuance of licences for venues to operate as nightclubs.

If a nightclub is licensed by the MTA, it may also apply for an additional licence to remain open past the limits established by the business hours regulations.

The responsibility of this licence falls under the Commerce Department.

The law limits opening hours of venues until 1:00am on all days except Carnival, Easter Sunday, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, where establishments are allowed to operate until 4:00am.

The licence to remain operational past the limits set by the law allows nightclubs to operate until 4:00am at all times.

However, even if allowed to operate until 4:00am, they’ll have to ensure music can’t be heard past 1:00am in all localities, except a few designated areas in Bugibba, Qawra and Paceville.

As for stakeholders, while there is no organisation which represents the nightclub industry exclusively, there is the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA), which represents a number of entertainers working in the industry.

Challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

The nightclub industry took a massive blow during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to outlets having been forced to close to minimise the spread of the virus.

This had a severely negative impact on the industry, with countless operators unable to work for over a year. Even when vaccination rates surpassed the 80 per cent mark, and restrictions were being eased, nightclubs felt they were being discriminated against since standing events still remained off-limits.

By that point, industry operators had come together and launched a campaign known as Restart Malta, which sought to bring about a clear path for industries involved in nightlife and entertainment to return to normality.

The campaign was supported by a number of the country’s nightclubs, entertainers and even the MEIA.

In May 2021, over a year since the first case of COVID-19 had hit Malta’s shores the campaign filed a parliamentary petition to apply pressure on the Government to change its approach regarding restrictions on the industry.

They demanded a timeline of restrictions being gradually eased and even they signalled their openness toward accepting only fully vaccinated individuals to premises among other demands.

While the Government dragged its feet to meet the industry’s demands, on 7th February 2022, all COVID-19 restrictions on nightclubs were lifted.

Empty Nightclub

Education and training

Given the breadth of activity which takes places within nightclubs, there’s a range of vocations that individuals may choose to train for to be involved.

If an individual wants to take part in serving drinks, Malta has its very own Bartending Academy, which provides training and qualifications going up to MQF 4.

Those who want to work on the music side of activities may need to focus on honing their own their own talents, however there are several tutors and local academies which can help kickstart someone’s experience behind DJ equipment.

Future of the industry

With the absence of COVID-19 restrictions and the dawn of a record number of tourists incoming to Malta, the future seems bright for the country’s evolving nightclub industry.

It’s marked by a strong sense of industry-wide solidarity and has also gained a reputation which attracts a number of well-known performers from across the world. Local nightclubs have even become spaces which synergise the development of local talent.

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