Private restaurant sprouts up at Heritage Malta museum in Mdina

The courtyard of one of the most historical palaces in Mdina – Palazzo Vilhena, managed by government agency Heritage Malta – has been turned into an open-air restaurant without any call for tenders or expressions of interest.

Sources at Heritage Malta have told The Shift that the five-star restaurant has been in operation for the past weeks by a private third party, which is offering a seven-course set menu which sets back patrons, mostly tourists, some €120 per head.

The Shift is also informed that Heritage Malta, and various ministers, have already received several complaints about the sudden and unexplained use of this public space for a commercial restaurant and questioned who had decided to allow it.

Claims of abuse of power were also directed at the highest echelons of Heritage Malta, mainly at Chairman Mario Cutajar and CEO Noel Zammit, as no call for tender or expression of interest was issued for the courtyard of the Natural History Museum to be turned into a restaurant.

Investigations by The Shift show how the museum is being used as a restaurant by the owners of Rabat’s Grotto Tavern, who also manage a similar restaurant at another Heritage Malta site in Valletta, the Museum of Fine Arts, known as MUZA.

While the owners of the Grotto Tavern had competed for and won a public tender to operate the restaurant at MUZA, the same cannot be said in the case of Palazzo Vilhena.

Instead, The Shift is informed that someone at Heritage Malta decided to grant the use of the historic public space through a direct order, and no one at the agency knows what arrangements are in place between the owners of the restaurant and Heritage Malta.

“At the moment, there is absolute total secrecy on this deal, and no one knows whether Heritage Malta is sharing the restaurant’s profits or whether it is receiving some kind of payment.”

Questioned about the development, Heritage Malta’s politically-appointed CEO Noel Zammit completely avoided entering into any of the deal’s details.

Insisting this was a “temporary” experiment, Zammit confirmed that a tender had not been issued, even though adopting such an approach might render the catering operation illegal.

“The National Museum of Natural History has for the past couple of weeks hosted a food and snack service. No food preparation or cooking takes place on site.

“It is managed by third parties; however, no tender was issued since the said third party already has a contractual relationship with the Agency following a public call.”

While refusing to name this “third party”, Zammit added that, “This is a trial for a temporary period, which will enable the Agency to assess the potential of such an undertaking and eventually consider issuing a public expression of interest.”

A ‘snack service’ or a ‘unique gastronomical experience’?

While the public agency’s CEO dubbed the initiative as a “snack service”, the private website marketing the new restaurant labels it “a unique gastronomical experience”.

Also, while Zammit insists that no cooking takes place on site, the restaurant owners are even offering patrons the opportunity to “peer” into the on site open kitchen.

So far, Zammit is refusing to say who authorised this unique arrangement, whether the restaurant is covered by a permit, what Heritage Malta is being paid for the use of the public space and whether it was normal for the public agency to use a tender it had already previously adjudicated for a new project outside the original tender’s remit.

When contacted, Grotto Tavern owner Jonathan Pace said he could not remember whose idea it had been to open the ‘temporary’ restaurant at the Heritage Malta museum. He confirmed that there had been no tender, and he could not discuss whether he has shared profits with Heritage Malta.

Just a few weeks ago, the Heritage Malta chairmanship was assumed by Mario Cutajar, who was unable to retain his post as the head of the civil service after having reached retirement age. Instead, the government had given him what is considered a token appointment at Heritage Malta.

                           
                               
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D M Briffa
D M Briffa
1 month ago

Is there nothing new that happens in Malta that isn’t tainted with corruption or incompetence? Every time. It’s remarkable. Nothing here is done properly. Theft of public money. Idiotic decisions. Cretins appointed to senior positions. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…..the Labour Government.

D. Borg
D. Borg
1 month ago
Reply to  D M Briffa

a mirror of the majority of the Maltese electorate.

K.Borg
K.Borg
1 month ago
Reply to  D M Briffa

Believe me they’re all like that especially PN and PL … It’s pirate island in their DNA won’t change they just don’t care unless we the people do something about it it’s going to remain the same always

Mjscer
Mjscer
1 month ago
Reply to  D M Briffa

Agreed, but on the other hand, we who are also cretins in one another’s eyes, what are we doing to stop all this corruption and bad governance? Just not turning up to cast our vote is not enough, we have to take part actively in protests in masses as there are thousands of reluctant cretins like us who are underestimating the right and power of protesting.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

If I remember correctly, the Mdina Museum was the place from which a small sample of ‘moon-rock’ – donated to the Museum by the American Government after one of the moon landings by the NASA astronauts in the late early 70’s – had been stolen.

No hint of any investigations carried out, if any were ever initiated, to find out how and why, as well as to determine responsibility for the theft, has ever been made known.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Tabone Adami
joe tedesco
joe tedesco
1 month ago

THE PL GOVERNMENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND WILL ALWAYS BE
ANATHEMA AND A DISGRACE TO THE MALTESE. IT THRIVES ON
DOING WHAT IT PLEASES AS IF THE WHOLE COUNTRY BELONGS
TO IT. NEVER, EVER, TRUST THE PL GOVERNMENT AND ITS
LEECHES.

KLAUS
KLAUS
1 month ago
Reply to  joe tedesco

Dear Joe Deutsch,

When we look at what is uncovered here every day by SHIFT-NEWS, the question arises as to whether a single cent is used as promised and pledged under oath.

Brussels is ashamed that it did not take action against corruption when the PN government was in power.
Compared to the outrageousness of the PL (Party of Looters), it was quite little, but the beginning was set.

It is true that no one wanted to be seen with Joseph Muscat any more, it is also true that corrupt Malta is looked down upon from all over the EU. 

ROBBER Abela has what it takes to be an (un)worthy successor and also to be dumped in the toilet of history.

Poor Malta.

Best,
Klaus

Stephen John Newton
Stephen John Newton
1 month ago

Sick lawless greed.

carlos
1 month ago

ANARCHY – JAQQ TA PAJJIZ

Carmel Callus
Carmel Callus
1 month ago
Reply to  carlos

It remains a Mafia State

Ray Gatt
Ray Gatt
1 month ago

Maybe one should try looking for the moon rock at minister Anton Refalo’s residence?

Greed
Greed
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray Gatt

My comment exactly lol

M R Ellul
M R Ellul
1 month ago

First they snatched public land, now historical buildings! What next? Private properties?!

Drone view
Drone view
1 month ago
Reply to  M R Ellul

Don’t bet on it!!

I. Gatt
I. Gatt
1 month ago

Corruption continues to fester and yet the populace remains silent……..!

Grace Cilia
Grace Cilia
1 month ago

In the history books we read about the Maltese uprisings against all the foreigners who conquered Malta until 1964. I loved this country for its history. But today’s history, being written everyday is unbearable. This history too should be written for future generations to know that a handful of Maltese destroyed the rest of their Maltese ‘brethen’. We fought the foreigners but why are we not fighting now? Let us bring our good minds together, and do something, because we have no one to lead Malta anymore. Power to the people.

Greed
Greed
1 month ago

Has anyone looked in Anton Refalo’s home for the moon rock,just asking for a friend?

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