Following Shift’s recent reports on how the Natural History Museum inside Palazzo Vilhena in Mdina was converted into an outdoor restaurant this summer without call for bids, a similar listing appears for Ta’ Bistra Catacombs.
According to a contract signed between the CEO of Heritage Malta Noel Zammit and the owners of the restaurant Cheese & Cuts in Mosta, the grounds of the first Christian catacomb complex were leased six times for private business in the summer of the 2021.
Each is six hours long and serves about 60 guests a night.
But, as in the case of Palazzo Vilhena, the agency is refusing questions about the events and its policy for listing historical sites for commercial use.
According to the restaurant’s online marketing information, guests are invited to book their table for a ‘Grill & Chill’ night, where “artisan dishes followed by a selection of mixed desserts are served under the stars” with lively music.
The venue was rented out by Heritage Malta for just €285 per event, including VAT.
When asked who planned to lease the site and whether there was a call for tenders for the contract, Heritage Malta did not respond.
The Chief Executive Officer did not explain how the office determines which places to buy for private entertainment, how many places are listed, or the branch is planning agent to create a policy for this process.
Sources at Heritage Malta told The Shift that although there may be a limit to the purchase of certain sites at times for funds that are much needed for the agency, the process used by its chairman Mario Cutajar and Zammit is questionable and intimidating.
“In other countries there are media laws, with clear lists of prices and fixed records,” the source said.
“In Malta, they give contracts based on the wishes of some people and create crazy rates for people with connections. It’s a complete lie.”
In the case of Ta’ Bistra the use of the set location is set at less than € 1,500 excluding VAT for the entire series of summer events, the Palazzo Vilhena gastronomy events’ organizers, Grotto Tavern, the terms were better.
With dinners sold for € 120 per head, they paid only € 50 per night for the use of the large Mdina area.