Fabian Demicoli

Leisure industry divided over proposed drinking age revision


Commissioner
for Children Helen d'Amato's proposal to raise the drinking age from 17 to 18
has been met with a mixed reaction by owners of bars and places of
entertainment, according to GRTU vice-president Philip Fenech.

Ms
D'Amato's proposal was one of several proposed amendments to laws concerning
issues falling under her remit in a memorandum sent to the Justice Reform
Commission.

National
anti-dependency agency Sedqa similarly believes that the minimum drinking age
should be raised by one year. But representatives of the leisure industry are
divided, according to Mr Fenech, who heads the GRTU's hospitality and leisure
division.

"Personally,
I believe that it should go up to 18, as this will end the disparity between
Malta and other countries within the EU, where the drinking age is mainly 18,"
Mr Fenech told The Malta Independent.

"I also
believe that this will raise standards in the industry," he said, later adding
that one had to be mature to drink alcohol.

But he
emphasises that this is his personal opinion, and not that of the GRTU, where
reactions to the proposal vary, mainly according to the establishments'
clientele.

The
owners of establishments that catered for a younger generation, Mr Fenech said,
argued that raising the minimum drinking age would see them lose a big chunk of
their business – so much so, that even their sustainability would be
threatened.

On the
other hand, those whose establishments attracted an older crowd believed that
the measure would improve their business, pointing out that the presence of
younger people deterred older people from certain areas.

Others
still, whose establishments attracted a mix of younger and older people,
expressed similar concerns to those whose venues were geared towards younger
crowds.

The GRTU,
Mr Fenech said, is discussing the proposal, but given the divergent views, it
was too early for it to come up with a common stance.

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