A history of the oldest wine bar and pub in Sliema
The Hole in the Wall pub has been around for 90 years. It was originally used as stables owned by Miss Antoinette Ganado who sold it as a pub to its very first owner, Manuel Scicluna. At the time, it was literally a hole in the wall with no seating space, so the owner used to sell wine to customers as a take-away. This was the norm since a bar was a rarity in Malta during that time.
70 years later Spiro Micallef had taken over the pub from Michael Scicluna and was running it for 20 years. At the time a glass of wine cost 3d (threepence) in ‘old money’. The pub was a hit with pilots and cabin staff of British European Airways who would stay over-night between flights in the nearby Imperial Hotel on Rudolph Street. They used to say to each other “I’ll see you down The Hole’!” says Freddie’s older brother Charlie, now aged 65 and living in the flats above Hole in the Wall.
The name stuck and it was then that Spiro decided to name the pub ‘Hole in the Wall’ thus placing the first sign over the entrance. Eventually Spiro, a seaman in the Royal Navy who had served in both World Wars had to sell the business in 1959 for Lr650. Freddie and Charlie’s father, Anthony Bartolo took it on for an annual rent of Lr100 before buying the pub outright in 1986. Freddie started working at the bar with his dad since the age of 14.
After the First World War, ‘The Hole in the Wall’ served as a wine shop where the locals would bring their jugs or bottles to be filled with liquor. The wine was kept in wooden casks; each one would could fill around 90 bottles of wine. Freddie, explains
“We had three types of wine when I started working in the pub – white, red and yellow, which was more brown in colour but was called yellow by British customers. Nowadays its red and white wine, both local and foreign, plus Rose”. In the course of time, it was time to retire for Anthony and so he gave the pub to his son Freddie. As new owner of the bar, Freddie admirably managed the expansion and redecoration, to the cosy bar it is today.
After 45 hard, long years of running the bar, Freddie sold the bar in 2012 to Ian Camilleri. Since the bar’s takeover in 2012, Ian had been opening from 15:00 to 1:00 hrs. He had ambitious plans for the Hole in the Wall, but sadly, after 2 successful years of running the bar, he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and he passed away In January 2015.
His two children, Kristal and Neil, sold the bar to the Schranz brothers in September 2015 who aim to reinvigorate it & restore back to its former glory.