Malta Diary 8: … it’s a Saturday night …
Paceville is a St Julian’s/Spinola suburb where I lived in the mid-1960s and remember it as a flat, featureless and highly unremarkable suburb with just one main drinking hole, Dick’s Bar, the haunt mainly of British servicemen and their wives who lived in the area.
The suburb’s name originated from a Dr Joseph Pace (a notary by profession – in Malta and Gozo all notaries and lawyers have the respectful panhandle of being addressed as Dr) who 70 or so years ago was the main land owner. With a quick eye for a buck, Joseph Pace originated a period of chaotic development, constructing a network of roads and streets with modest housing aimed at British service families.
It wasn’t an apartheid development aimed at creating any exclusivity but a measure to enable the British to feel “at home” because the great majority of Maltese housing then consisted of front doors opening directly onto the pavement. Pace pioneered a system where front doors opened on a small albeit cramped terrace which substituted as a front garden, a tiled area filled with potted plants.
By the late 1960s and Malta’s independence in 1964, Britain’s gradual withdrawal became more than evident and Paceville faced the danger of becoming a ghost suburb by the mid-1970s. It was saved by the teeming over-population of Sliema and St Julian’s as Maltese families moved into the vacant houses, and with them came frantic conversion activity as clusters of bars and restaurants sprang up overnight.
Today it is a veritable jungle of hundreds of watering and eating holes and certainly the place to be to have a fun night and a “must” for a Saturday night out – that is if you are up for binge drinking and hours of non-stop razzle dazzle.
The age category has a lot of influence on Paceville today. If you are over 30 it’s going to be hard to keep up and it has also gained a notorious reputation as a binge area and for substance abuse. It’s a nightmare for an ageing population that still lives there and an equal nightmare for parking, including the extension area which has become Bay Street.
On Saturdays, streets are jam-packed with thousands of fun seekers throughout the night and into Sunday morning and police and security activities have a high profile controlling binge drinkers and resultant fisticuffs.
Clubs, discos, bars, restaurants, snack bars, takeaways and so-called Gentlemen’s Clubs stand shoulder-to-shoulder in an area no larger than two square miles, choked with teenie plus customers that overflow into all the streets in the height of the Mediterranean summer heat in July and August.
Amongst the most popular jam-packed venues are the Sky Club, Hugo’s Lounge, Havana and Barcelona Lounge. Hen Nights are frequent whilst Stag Nights with pole dancing and other various activities have popularised the Gentlemen’s Clubs.
So, forget the “having a quiet pint” notion in an area where you have to muck-in and mingle, mix and match and drink-until-you-drop code.
If you are looking for something quieter and more upmarket there is the sophisticated Level 22, an exclusive and elegant club with great views on the 22nd level of the Portomaso Complex (adjacent to the Malta Hilton) but expect stiffer prices. The Complex also has a Casino and there is the nearby stylish Dragonara Casino. Thankfully, hotel and complex are on the outer periphery of Paceville as are other five star hotels like The Westin, Intercontinental and the St George Corinthia – all with their plusher bars and sophisticated restaurants.
And, by the way, Dick’s Bar is still there, on the hill leading up to Paceville from Spinola Bay.