Ta’ Rita restaurant in Għar Lapsi set to change into guesthouse

The iconic restaurant at Għar Lapsi known as Ta’ Rita is set to transform into a guesthouse after it was recommended for approval by the case officer 

Ta’ Rita restaurant in Ghar Lapsi
Ta’ Rita restaurant in Ghar Lapsi

The iconic restaurant at Għar Lapsi known as Ta’ Rita is set to transform into a guesthouse and lose its blue colour after revised plans got the nod from the planning case officer.

The Planning Authority is expected to approve the guest house, which will be slightly higher and bulkier at first floor level than the existing building.

After a five-year saga, which saw a constant revision of plans to ensure that the new building fits in the surrounding landscape, the proposed transformation of the popular restaurant into a guest house is being recommended for approval by the case officer.

A final decision will be taken by the Planning Board on 4 March.

Ta’ Rita owes its origins to a small bar that was opened by Frenċ Azzopardi to cater for British servicemen in the 1930s. The restaurant probably built in the 1950s is still popularly known as Ta’ Rita, the name of Azzopardi’s daughter.

Proposed development

The most significant change over the present situation is the construction of a first floor level, with the uppermost level proposed at a 4.25m setback throughout the whole width of the building façade.

In contrast, the existing first floor level only covers a small part of the building and varies from a 4.8m setback to a 10.8m setback. The new building will be 0.6 meters higher than the existing one but substantially bulkier.

An architectural design of how the guesthouse will look like
An architectural design of how the guesthouse will look like

The new structure will house an underground parking area at basement level, a multi-purpose hall and a marine leisure shop at the semi-basement level, a restaurant at the ground floor level and a guesthouse spanning on both the ground floor and first floor level.

The proposal will have a similar architectural design and massing as that of the existing structure.

The Environment and Resources Authority, which had reservation on previous plans, has concluded that the physical downscaling of the project, particularly the reduction of the terrace space at restaurant level and the omission of the proposed structures at the roof level, is being considered “sufficient in addressing the authority’s concern regarding the physical massing of the proposed building in the sensitive environment”.

But the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage was still insisting on the retention of the existing Modernist façade and objected to the increase in the building’s massing.   

Among the features that give the existing restaurant its unique character, are two converging staircases, the large and symmetrical fenestration spanning across the whole width of the elevation and its iconic blue façade.

Despite the SCH’s objection to the elimination of the existing façade, the case officer described the replacement building as a “modernized version of the existing” which retains “the most notable elements”.

One feature that will be replaced is the blue rendering for the façade, to be substituted with a more earthy tone colour, with the case officer concluding that this would result in a more suitable finish, blending further into the surrounding open spaces and landscape and mitigating its visual impact.

While the case officer concluded that the proposal is being considered an enhancement of the existing development and one which will not adversely affect the surrounding land the PA’s advisory committee on design issues still called for a reduction in the overall massing of the building through the elimination of the proposed semi basement level.

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