This converted beach house aims to provide a home away from home for its majority-expat clientele.
When people think of bars in St Julian’s, they probably picture plush lounge seating, loud music and pricey cocktails – and that’s accurate for the most part in Malta’s lively party district. They probably don’t conjure up a cheerful little beach bar with a bamboo canopy and colourful wall art, serving up friendliness and warmth along with a round of beers. But that’s exactly what Happy Dayz, tucked away on the Spinola front, has to offer, and those who know about it keep coming back for more.
Run by cousins Ian and Julian Muscat, Happy Dayz, a cosy converted beach house, is inspired by the bars Ian came across in the Caribbean while working on a boat in his younger days. “We wanted to offer something different to the rest of St Julian’s,” says Julian. “Somewhere where people can just come, chill, hang out and listen to world music. We wanted it to feel like a living room where everyone is welcome.”
The bar serves up a variety of beers – including Happy Dayz’s two delicious own-recipe craft beers, an American Pale Ale and an Irish Red Ale – as well as modestly-priced wines, spirits and cocktails (they grow the mint for the mojitos in the bar’s own front garden). A happy hour is held daily from 5pm to 6.30pm. There are also snacks available, as well as home-made desserts, but by Julian’s own admission, people don’t come primarily for the food – they come for the atmosphere of the bar, which is unique, not just to St Julian’s but to practically all of Malta.
The sense of community is very important to the Happy Dayz team. The look of the place is informal, with mismatched, lived-in furniture, most of which has been built or donated by friends and family members. In the outdoor seating area, two ancient fishing boats have been converted into comfy sofas, an old wooden water ski makes up part of a bench, and two rowing oars form part of the outdoor décor.
Meanwhile, the volume of the music is never too loud, for two main reasons – so that patrons can chat away comfortably for hours on end, and so as not to disturb the residential community that surrounds the bar. People wishing to pump up the jams can make use of headphones, and have their own private silent disco.
Many of the walls feature fantastical nautical themes which have been painted by the employees, who are urged to not only serve the patrons of the bar, but to use their creativity and come up with new ideas to improve it. “We try to make sure our employees are as happy as possible, and get all the help they need,” Julian says. “It’s no use trying to run a relaxed beach bar if your employees are stressed out! We try to listen to our people as much as we can, be they employees or clients.”
Other friends have donated random artworks and knick-knacks that give Happy Dayz that charmingly eccentric look that makes it stand out from the crowd. And having such a strong sense of community spirit also helps when disaster strikes.
In February, when a massive storm hit the Maltese islands over the weekend of the 24th and 25th, Happy Dayz’s outdoor area was flooded and badly battered, and the cousins were at a loss about what to do. But on Monday morning, they found a group of five or six regulars, already at work cleaning up and making the necessary repairs. “By Friday afternoon, we were ready to open again!” Julian smiles.
In summer, Happy Dayz turns into a fully-fledged beach bar offering a variety of water sports under the family’s Oki-Ko-Ki Banis brand, including speedboat rides, water skiing, banana rides and the crazy sofa. But after initially deciding to open in summer only, Julian and Ian realised there was still a demand for the spot, even in winter – so now the bar is open all year round.
“People always want that hang-out place, where they can meet, play a board game, watch a film or a game on TV. We want it to be as relaxed and inviting as possible.” It’s no surprise then that non-Maltese clients from all over the world make up 80 per cent of Happy Dayz’s patrons – for many of these expats, the bar feels like a home away from home, and the cousins are intent on keeping it that way.
“We’ve had visitors who are in Malta for a week and end up coming here for a drink every day of their stay!” Julian says. “The best part of the job for me is seeing people having fun, chilling out and relaxing in this little bar that we’ve built. It’s what makes it all worthwhile!”
Check Happy Dayz Bar out for yourself on Spinola Street, St Julian’s, or get in touch on 9986 6280 or via their Facebook page.