Signature Entertainment Group, recently mentioned in news reports relating to the approved Tattingers hotel proposal, has announced on their website that they are “in the process of acquiring the concession” of all three beachfront lidos in Armier Bay.
Questions were sent to the Lands Authority asking what kind of concession framework accompanies the three beach clubs in the area, known presently as the Mambo beach club, the Palm Beach resort, and Baia beach club. No answers were forthcoming despite several reminders being sent.
It is therefore not known what kind of redevelopment Signature Entertainment Group is planning, beyond what is said on its website. The group says it’s embarking on a five-year phase of redevelopment, only specifying that Baia beach club will be the first to reopen by next year “under the global brand of Buddha-bar beach”.
Signature Entertainment Group lists Dominic Micallef Jr. as the sole shareholder and director of the company, which is widely known in entertainment circles as the driving force behind the former Tattingers club. Micallef is also known for organising various, large-scale events and partnerships with brands like Unite for Tomorrowland and Buddha-bar. He is also listed as the director of Aria Complex in San Ġwann.
Micallef is closely linked with the Labour Party in general, particularly with Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando since at least 2008 when the Mistra scandal hit the headlines and the latter was still an MP for the Nationalist Party. Micallef was the leaseholder of the land he was seeking to convert into an open-air entertainment venue, while Pullicino Orlando was the landowner.
Pullicino Orlando and then-opposition leader Alfred Sant had an explosive showdown on the scandal in the lead-up to the 2008 election, with Sant publicly accusing Pullicino Orlando of corruption and leveraging contacts with authorities to issue the permit. The law courts would go on to prove Sant right on the matter. Pullicino Orlando had filed for libel, a case which was thrown out in 2014 with the magistrate describing Sant’s statements on the matter as objectively fair and honestly founded, according to reports.
Micallef had written to The Times of Malta about the scandal in May of the same year, distancing himself from Pullicino Orlando and describing him as someone who happened to own land he was interested in. He also complained about a report featuring a comment by a MEPA auditor which stated that the allegations of corruption surrounding the Mistra project were difficult to refute.
While the applications for the venue were repeatedly refused, the tourism authority had eventually advised the planning authority to issue the permit in 2007. At the end of that year, Micallef attempted to double the size of the overall plot in his application.
Besides the virtual monopolisation of Armier Bay, Signature Entertainment Group is also aiming to build a €9.2 million lido at the foot of Valletta’s bastions, including a bar, a restaurant, a pool, a 165-sunbed area and yacht berthing facilities, according to the group’s own website.
A search on the Planning Authority’s website for any pending Valletta-based applications relating to Signature Entertainment Group or its CEO, Micallef, did not reveal relevant applications available in the public domain, making it unclear whether the group is referring to future plans or developments that may already be ongoing.
The Tattingers hotel proposal
In April, the Tattingers hotel proposal filed by Signature Entertainment Group, which envisages an 81-room five star hotel spread over five floors, was approved in spite of geological concerns during construction which may threaten the integrity of Mdina’s nearby fortifications, as well as the urban skyline.
In spite of objections from NGOs, residents and Mdina’s local council, as well as concerns flagged by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority, the planning commission approved the proposal pending studies on whether construction would affect the integrity of Mdina’s bastions.
Architect Tara Cassar had, on behalf of NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa, highlighted that construction work for the project, including underground tunnels, was set to excavate over 1,000 sqm of floor space and would go on to tunnel to a depth just 11m away from Mdina’s fortifications.
One of three planning board members who voted against the project, Chris Cilia, was particularly aghast over the fact that the bank guarantee imposed on the project, which would have to be used to pay out any repairs for any external damages that occur as a result of the construction of the hotel, was just €10,000.
Cilia’s intervention as well as widespread condemnation from the project’s objectors led to the five-fold increase of that guarantee, bumping it up to €50,000.
Featured photo: Dominic Micallef celebrating the Labour Party’s electoral victory.