Tony Zahra, president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, has sharply criticised the Government’s modus operandi in pushing through a bill allowing establishments to play “moderate levels” of music until 1am without consultation with industry bodies.

“A simple legal notice that says we are extending times [when amplified music can be played] of Bugibba, St Paul’s Bay, Paceville, and inserting Valletta in the same line is not the way to do things,” he said.

“No one needs me to tell them that,” Mr Zahra added.

“The way to do things is to consult stakeholders. We have not been consulted on the matter. This is not the way to do things.” contacted Mr Zahra for comments following the Parliamentary debate on the subject, spurred by a motion presented by the Nationalist Party after an earlier Local Council meeting devolved into a shouting match as Labour Mayor Alfred Zammit was forced to rebut allegations that he was putting his party’s interests before those of his constituents.

During the Parliamentary debate, PN MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici noted that no legal instrument actually defines what could be considered a moderate volume of music.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. There are plenty of lawyers in here, we know what will happen in court. Who’s going to interpret what ‘moderate’ means?” she asked.

On his part, Mr Zahra sought to put a pin on the matter: “We said what we had to say on the subject. There was not a word said in Parliament that’s changed our opinion,” he said.

“There has been nothing said since our statement was issued to make us change our minds.”

The MHRA president was referring to the body’s press release, issued late last month, where it warned that “such measure will compromise the zoning policy, in other words the possibility of creating a mix of tourism products and concepts across the Maltese islands by guiding investment opportunities in a strategic manner”.

It continued: “This legal amendment is putting at high risk that Valletta becomes another nightclub destination which according to MHRA should not be the target of anyone who has at heart the principles of sustainable tourism growth objectives.”

The association also called for stronger enforcement and closer consultation to ensure that its members’ investment strategies complement the national policies.

A court decision in 2018 ordered a bar in Paceville to pay compensation to the overlying hotel after finding “sufficient evidence that the amplified music was in breach of regulations and caused serious disturbance for the hotel”, raising the possibility of Valletta-based hospitality and catering establishments losing customers to the disturbance caused by the music resorting to court action.

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