Hailed as a ‘den of iniquity’ by some and a Mecca by others, the Paceville of my younger years was an exciting vibrant area. Redolent with young people and the ever-present lurking promoters trying to slip you a ‘free drink’ ticket, it stood out against the mediocre backdrop of my daily routine, promising entertainment, stimulus, the chance to let go and enjoy friendships and flirtations.
I remember my first time in Paceville, right after I turned 16. Me and my girlfriends hit Axis (the old Axis not the current shopping mall) and ended up having to go to the bathroom to get in a word edgewise. The smell of crushed ice, the ringing of too-loud music in my ears, the claustrophobic feeling of being packed like a sardine with my new coat in danger of being set on fire by someone’s cigarette… I can still remember all of that as if it were yesterday.
There was another side to the coin of course. During my early days in Paceville, I also remember being surprised at the many teens puking their guts out randomly in the street as early as 10pm, the packs of (obviously drunk) young men actively prowling the bars making a pass at anything in skirts, not to mention the famous bathroom mirror at Burger King which, weekend after weekend, kept getting broken, replaced, and then broken again… until it was stolen. All of this was amusing at first, yet I admit that I got so used to it in time, as to not consider it important any more. It was just part of the night-hub’s ambience.
In the 80s, 90s, and 00s, Paceville was the magnet to which most teenagers and young people gravitated in the weekends. Later on, it also became a tourist attraction, promoted and sold to foreign students and vacation party-lovers alike as the epitome of all that was glittering and exciting in experiencing the nightlife of a summer-loving Mediterranean island.
It was the onset of this touristic mindset, I think, which ultimately brought about Paceville’s demise. As popular clubs and discotheques like Axis, the Alley, Coconut Grove and The Olde Keg closed down one after the other, tourist gift shops and so-called ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ mushroomed everywhere like germ-infested parasites. Business moguls such as Hugo Chetcuti bought most of the remaining Paceville venues such as Havana and Native Bar, changing them into ‘cocktail bars’ or ‘lounges’ aimed at providing diminutive tasty morsels and drinks at exorbitant prices. All well and good for those tourists and older nightlife-lovers with money to spend, less so for teenagers and young students.
It was places like Hugo’s Passion, Hugo’s Lounge and Hugo’s Terrace which brought on the new spate of Paceville frequenters – those late twenty-somethings and early thirty-something clients who enjoyed meeting up after work, on lazy Sunday afternoons, or later for ‘after-dinner’ drinks.
Those who, like me, loved to spend time walking around those four or five streets which make up the ‘hub’ of Paceville mainly to meet friends while listening to good music slowly started looking for other places to hang out. This year, as Salsa Bar Fuego, together with the iconic Pizza Factory near Baystreet, closed their doors as well, little remains of the Paceville I remember so fondly. Also gone are some other favourite haunts, such as Gotchi sushi bar, Hotch, Sabor, Wild Koyote, and Nordic (downstairs).
I miss going to Paceville, but the Paceville I miss, is the one which no longer exists.