introduction

The proposed location for this venture is an outlet situated in the lower part of Strait Street in Valletta, more aptly known as ‘The Gut’. The premises form part of a larger project being developed and carried out by Valletta Boutique Living Ltd (VBL), a well-established entity focusing on rehabilitating and converting old buildings in Valletta into new, modern, higher-end properties.

The Gut

Running from just North of City Gate in the West, right across to the lower end of Valletta, close to St Elmo in the East, one finds the very long and narrow Strait Street. A previously seedy entertainment zone in Valletta, just as it passes Old Theatre Street, Strait Street becomes even narrower and darker, an area which is referred to as ‘The Gut’.

Some decades ago, during the British Colonial phase of Malta’s history, Strait Street was the centre of the country’s premier entertainment district. It welcomed the armed forces which were stationed in Malta, as well as officers from the British Royal Navy visiting during their regular stopovers in the Grand Harbour.

Nonetheless, Strait Street has an even deeper history, dating as far back as the period of the Knights of St John. For the most part, Strait Street was always home to a combination of small bars, taverns, hotels, lodging houses, music halls, fast food outlets, restaurants, a few retail outlets, and even a number of brothels.

With Malta’s call for independence officialised in September 1964, the popularity of the area drastically declined, with the last remaining doors closing some 15 years later. Despite this, traces of the Street’s colourful history can still be seen to this day.

The VBL project

The Thirsty Lawyer will be located on the old premises of the Silver Horse, which is one of the main establishments forming part of the VBL ‘Gut’ Project. Probably the most notorious and documented entertainment spot in the neighbourhood in its heyday, the Silver Horse was named after Lone Ranger's horse, Silver. Known to many a sailor as the crucial late night stop, this was a place of live shows and alternative cabaret, as well as home to the famous transvestite showgirl, II-Bobby.

The Directors of VBL envision ‘the Gut’ Project to be a high-end Gastro-Retail project where fine dining, music, theatre, cabaret, dance and architecture will all come together between two walls and on three dimensions.

The Establishment

The establishment is slightly below ground level and has an overall floor area of circa 265m2. Estimated seating capacity is to be around 80 covers and the venue will carry a 4D class licence.
However, The Thirsty Lawyer is not to be classified only as a restaurant or a cocktail bar. It will be all this and much more. Plans are to open from early lunch hours offering business lunches and other meals, after work aperitifs, evening dinners, ending the night with a lounge area offering cocktails, wine and alcohol accompanied by light snacks and platters. Weekends will be something slightly more engaging, offering a Paris-style ‘Supper Club’ arrangement, as when the dining ends, tables will be moved to reveal the dance floor, lighting will change to reflect the mood, the DJ will start playing and a sophisticated music policy will engage the patrons to dance away the night in the most gorgeous environment in Valletta.

The ‘Thirsty Lawyer’ Concept

The American Mafia, also referred to as the Italian Mafia, was a highly organised Italian-American criminal society which emerged in impoverished Italian immigrant neighbourhoods in New York’s East Harlem, lower East Side, and Brooklyn during the late 19th and early 20th century. Even though it takes its roots from the Sicilian Mafia, it was, and still remains, a totally separate organisation in the United States.

At its peak, there were at least 26 cities around the United States with Cosa Nostra families, with many more offshoots and associates in other cities. During this peak period, the Mafia dominated organised crime with each crime family having its own territory.

It was also during this time that the Prohibition era began. At midnight on Saturday 17th January 1920, America was to become an entirely arid desert as far as alcohol was concerned, with any beverage containing more than 0.5% of alcohol being banned. This outright ban on alcohol turned into a new business venture for the Mafia, and a number of speakeasies began to sprout and sell alcohol secretly. In fact most of these bars were owned and run by various famous Mafia families. Fortunes were made and the families became even wealthier.
In those same years, the Mafia began waging war for absolute control over the lucrative bootlegging, fighting the Irish and Jewish gangs in their respective territories. Through the alcohol racket, the smarter of the organised crime groups expanded their ‘business’ into other ventures, such as unions, construction, health, and drug trafficking.

Whilst one can find various names of lawyers that represented numerous characters pertaining to the Mafia families and crime groups, the following could probably be the top three lawyers that spring to mind when Mafia and Lawyers are mentioned.

Frank Ragano was a lawyer from Florida, who made a name representing organised crime figures during the ‘50s, such us Santo Trafficante, who was the owner of several nightclubs. Carlos Marcello and Jimmy Hoffa, in addition to selling alcohol in an illegal manner, are said to have planned the murder of US President, John F. Kennedy.

Murray Cutler was a Brooklyn criminal defence lawyer for 46 years whose clients included accused killers, rapists and drug dealers and the reputable kingpin of gambling in New York during the ‘40s. His son, Bruce Cutler, was also a lawyer that represented boss criminals such as John Gotti.

Edward Joseph O’Hare was a lawyer in Chicago who began working with Al Capone, who had started his criminal activity with the bootlegging racket in USA. He represented Al Capone till 1939.

In light of the above, we can consider the 1940s and 1950s as the era upon which to base the concept for The Thirsty Lawyer. In this way, would also maintain the link with The Thirsty Barber (with the prohibition era), and which was where speakeasies began to open and with the American Mafia activities then being represented by their lawyers.

General Ambience (Look and Feel)

As already mentioned, The Thirsty Lawyer should not be categorised as any particular place. The environment and general ambience should be such to allow for pleasant activities.

Design

The Thirsty Lawyer’s interior design will be based on the following factors:

We will be offering different food and beverage options depending on the time of day, and therefore, the overall ambience has to follow these changes in a smart manner (change in lighting conditions, different table arrangements as well as a re-organisation of the various areas).

“Our clients would be customers who appreciate good quality food drink and service, in a befitting environment offering an unrivalled customer experience”