A government-owned property in Little Armier that was to open as an upmarket lido under the Buddha Bar international franchise has not only failed to materialise, but was last week slapped with a warning to stop refurbishment work as it is not in line with the site’s development permit.
The Shift is informed that the Planning Authority has issued a stop order following reports of illegal work currently taking place at the former Baia Beach Club, also known as Beachcombers, in Little Armier.
The club, according to its new owner Dominic Micallef Jr, was to reopen as Malta’s first Buddha Bar beach club last June.
Contacted by The Shift, a Planning Authority spokesperson confirmed that works were ordered to be halted in their tracks because of a number of illegalities found on site, even though no real work is being carried out and the area seems to have been abandoned by its developers.
“The site was inspected by the compliance and enforcement directorate. However, no works were being undertaken at the time of the visit,” a PA spokesperson told The Shift.
“Additional works not covered by a permit were noticed and, under the circumstances, the directorate proceeded to issue a warning notice requiring the immediate cessation of works,” the PA confirmed to The Shift.
It is not known what type of work had been permitted as part of the property’s refurbishment and why the promised trendy beach club that had been advertised so widely by Dominic Micallef never opened its doors and does not appear to be in a position to do so, at least not anytime in the near future.
Research undertaken by The Shift shows that until a few years ago the lease of the government seafront lido property was administered by Jonathan Mangion, the chief executive officer of A.M. Mangion Ltd, a long-established family pharmaceutical importation business.
It is not known how the public concession passed from Mangion to Micallef and what role, if any, the Lands Authority played in the transfer of the site, which enjoys commanding views of Gozo and Comino. So far, both the Lands Authority and the minister responsible, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, are refusing to reply to questions on the matter.
The Shift is informed that the only refurbishment permit the Planning Authority issued for the property dates back to 2019 and concerns the “the sanctioning of minor alterations of bathrooms built illegally on the ground floor”.
The permit was issued on behalf of Jonathan Mangion through architect Wayne Scerri.
Minor sanctioning becomes full refurbishment exercise
It is not known how this minor sanctioning has been turned into a full refurbishment exercise. Pictures show that the establishment has been completely stripped down and that new structures are being built.
Micallef, an entertainment entrepreneur known for his former ownership of Tattingers club in Rabat, has been making headlines in recent weeks.
After some 13 years of attempting to regularise massive illegalities at his Aria Club complex in Iklin, Micallef, who is known to enjoy close ties to the governing Labour Party, ‘managed’ to straighten out his problems with the PA by having all the illegalities sanctioned through the intervention of his architect, and erstwhile government consultant, Robert Musumeci.
At the same time, a controversial planning permit Micallef had obtained to turn the former Saqqajja Hill nightclub, which lies on the boundary of the historic Mdina Bastions, into a hotel had been revoked by the PA after it was found it had given the project the green light before the necessary geological studies had been undertaken.
Another project Micallef is involved in, the development of the Valletta water polo pitch into yet another lido, was also abandoned halfway through. Micallef’s contractor, G&P Borg, publicly stated that he had no choice but to stop work since he is owed a considerable amount of money by Micallef.
Micallef is so far refusing to admit to any problems, only stating that all his projects are still works in progress.