MP says band clubs facing eviction should be bailed out by State

With Stella Maris Band Club facing eviction, other clubs express solidarity, and urge government to intervene

Photo: Stella Maris Band Club/Facebook
Photo: Stella Maris Band Club/Facebook

The Stella Maris Band Club is set to be evicted from its historic premises on Annunciation Square next week, stoking calls for measures that can safeguard band clubs houses in rent-controlled properties.

The band club is slated for eviction on 23 November after a lengthy court battle between the club and the landlords who had spent over 12 years trying to reclaim possession of the Sliema townhouse.

The National Band Clubs Association said it was disappointed at the news, noting the band club’s long history and ties to the Stella Maris festa in Sliema.

It urged the government to reach an agreement that could be beneficial for band clubs and landowners, so that no band club loses its property.

A controversial law introduced in 2018 had prevented landlords from evicting band club tenants for breaching their lease agreements. However, this law was ruled unconstitutional by a court in 2020 as it breached fundamental rights.

In reaction to the Stella Maris eviction, Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina said that government should intervene by purchasing the properties from landlords at its market price. After doing so, government will be able to hand over the property to the band club concerned, so that it can continue operating from its original premises.

Several other band clubs expressed solidarity over the eviction. The San Gejtanu band club in Ħamrun said it was facing a similar legal battle and possible eviction from its premises. “We cannot lose band clubs. These clubs are what 60% of Maltese people consider as part of their culture.”

Julia Zahra, the Opposition spokesperson for culture, agreed that government should strive to find a balance between the rights of landowners and the public interest of these band clubs.

Nationalist MP Joe Giglio added that he will be following the case closely in the hopes of finding a solution.

David Muscat, local councillor and minority leader on the Sliema local council, expressed solidarity with the band club. “My appeal is for central government to find a solution as soon as possible so that this gem in Sliema is not lost.”

Anton Debono, deputy mayor in Sliema, urged government to intervene, especially as the local Stella Maris festa depends on this band club.