In a corner of Sliema, a beloved princess' memory lives on

Lady Di pub has kept at it for more than 35 years

Frankie Cutajar showing The People's feature about him and his pub.

Frankie Cutajar showing The People's feature about him and his pub.

Decades after his chance encounter with Lady Diana, Frankie Cutajar is still having a right royal time running the Lady Di Pub, says Fiona Vella.

“You wouldn’t survive in this business if you are not brought up in it since childhood. It is just too demanding and it takes up your life completely,” insists Frankie Cutajar, the owner of Lady Di Pub in Tignè Street, Sliema.

“On the other hand, if the seed of entertainment has been nurtured in your blood from an early age, it is difficult to let go of such an engaging and colourful world,” he says, as he laughs heartily and pours a tin of golden beer into a large glass for a client.

Frankie Cutajar at the Lady Di Pub.Frankie Cutajar at the Lady Di Pub.

Cutajar hails from Valletta. Two of his family members are the renowned late musician Oscar Lucas and popular singer Joe Cutajar.

“Back in the old days, their cheerful attitude and exquisite talent used to light up the thrilling atmosphere of Strait Street. I can still remember the time when 10,000 foreign soldiers sought that area in Valletta each week and all those who had a business there, concocted new ways to attract them to their locale.

“My uncle Oscar Lucas played in various venues. Together with Jimmy Grech (also known as Jimmy l-Irish), he owned the Las Vegas. It was huge, running from the area where today one finds the Marks and Spencer store and going up to the Embassy. At 12, I worked as a waiter in this nightclub.”

Cutajar got married when he was 18 and kept working at Las Vegas until it closed its doors.

“The British Forces left and Paceville became the new attraction for the younger generations. Eventually, Jimmy l-Irish, my older brother Harry and I acquired a bar in Melita Street and called it Pippo’s.

“Later on, my brother and I also took over a business in Tignè Street, Sliema. This place was originally a bar known as Neriku and it was run by my grandparents. After it served as an antique shop for some years, we decided to open it as a pub. Many of the visitors who came to Malta and stayed at the surrounding hotels in Sliema were British. So we had no doubts whatsoever about what we were going to call our new pub.”

The earlier Lady Di Pub.The earlier Lady Di Pub.

A framed copy of a newspaper feature which hangs on one of the walls narrates how the name Lady Di Pub came to life. Cutajar recounts this incident proudly.

“I was having a meal with a well-connected friend of mine at a London restaurant when he introduced me to Lady Diana. I told her that I would be naming a bar after her to record the memorable event of her marriage to Prince Charles.

Shortly afterwards, I saw her again at a film premiere in Leicester Square and she reminded me about it.”

Lady Di Pub opened its doors on Wednesday, July 29, 1981, the day of the fairytale royal wedding.

In 2006, the Lady Di Pub was rebuilt after the property was earmarked for development and demolished.

“Although the pub was new, I decided to recreate its old British soul. I knew my clients would appreciate a unique traditional corner huddled amongst the tall and modern buildings.”

Several framed photos of Lady Diana keep a watchful eye over the pub’s customers.

“These were given to us by her photographer who became our friend,” Frankie explains. “Customers love to look at them especially now that she’s gone. She was very cherished by the people and they still miss her terribly.”

After her tragic death on August 31, 1997, Lady Diana’s fans were distraught. They frantically searched for anything which connected them to her.

“For a number of days after her demise, people left flowers at our door as a sign of mourning. A British journalist for The People came to visit the pub and interviewed me about this experience. It was certainly a very disturbing loss but in this little corner in Malta, Lady Di’s memory is still very much alive.”

Read the full version in Sliema Times, distributed for free to all Sliema households.

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