Those over forty know a much different Paceville than the one today, the change has over the past twenty five years has been drastic, and whilst the look may be more cosmopolitan, it has certainly become more impersonal and almost foreboding for those venturing in the entertainment capital of Malta for the first time.
Places evolve according to the trends and the demands of the market and the influx of tourists and foreigners living in Malta have helped make the transition into the Paceville of today a much quicker one.
It is natural that adolescents want to go out and have adventures, meet friends, and get to know new ones and in Malta since the late seventies when Valletta started to lose its lustre, Paceville was, and still is the natural playground for these encounters to happen. In a time when mobile phones and social media were just fantasies, hundreds of our youths used to meet at the terminus in Valletta, catch the number 67 bus and spend the night dancing away in one of the numerous night clubs or discotheques. This was a time though, when 16 and 17 year old had a curfew, and so did 20 year olds for that matter. Whether this was over protection or not, is a matter of opinion but it is undeniable that there was much more order in the streets of the bohemian corner of St.Julians at that time.
The bouncers of the clubs at that time have by now earned a place in Paceville folklore, and as grumpy and selective as they seemed at the time, violence was an exception and not the rule. Of course there used to be squabbles, and sure, the occasional punch was thrown around but these were kept under control. We knew the owners of the pubs, we knew the barmen and we knew who the bouncers were, and whether we admitted it or not, we respected them and they respected us.
Clients were not just numbers, each bar or discotheque has its own clientele and with all the technological and logistic limitations, there always seemed to be full co operation between all parties and even with the police, whose presence was more assuring than intimidating.
I do not want to make Paceville of the 80’s and 90’s sound like a playing ground for saints and angels but that example would not be much of an exaggeration when compared to the place of today. One example springs in mind – the nightmare of going up the steps from bay street to where Axis was a few decades ago, I could easily fill my pockets with 20 or so strip club invitations, given to me under the scrutiny of Balkan commando like bodyguards, and whilst I am very much aware that going there I should not expect the same congregation of a prayer meeting, the chaos is just too overwhelming. You might argue that I am getting old, which I am but I have been in hotspots all over Europe including Amsterdam, downtown Glasgow and London and it is surely not as bad as this.
We need to regulate, we need to know who is working where and these checks need to be frequent. Needless to say we were all saddened by the tragedy of a few months ago, where a person who devoted his life and invested millions of Euro to make Paceville the entertainment niche of Malta as brutally killed in cold blood. We cannot allow that to happen again.
There needs to be a general clean up, we need to aim high, move upmarket and invest wisely in a holistic plan that will bring the best out of Paceville. They managed to do this in Hamburg, it was done in Soho and it can definitely be done here. This plan needs people who think outside the box, the archaic way of thinking and the lack of planning have gotten us here and we need to mend this mess.
Many are already slowly but surely looking for other places of entertainment and with Valletta picking up fast the haemorrhage could be a rapid one unless a fresh plan is put into place.
The way Paceville I built and situated makes it an ideal place for entertainment, but people also want to be safe and get good value for their money. We cannot afford to have a Paceville frequented only by foreigners and in this sense we have to understand better what the Maltese partygoers need and cater for them in a sensed manner.