In Tavares Bastos, World-Famous Bar The MAZE Faces Demolition

View from The MAZE
View from The MAZE

The world-famous jazz bar, The MAZE, in the Tavares Bastos favela in Rio’s South Zone neighborhood of Catete, has been marked for demolition by the City of Rio.

The MAZE, founded by BBC correspondent Bob Nadkarni in 1981, has plentiful documentation disputing allegations from the City, which claims the building is an unsafe structure. They fear the impending demolition will be the first step in a targeted eviction of the entire community.

The iconic bar, labeled among the best jazz bars in the world and famous for hosting figures from Snoop Dogg to Thierry Henry, is a crucial presence within the small community. Claudiana, a business owner in Tavares Bastos, told us, “It is perfect. It isn’t a problem at all. Because it gives work to people… In my opinion, it should carry on like that.”

The City intends to demolish The MAZE due to safety concerns; despite this, the Rio Tourism board is still advertising it as a recommended accommodation to tourists. The MAZE Gallery hosts a collection of paintings created over 20 years, “So the MAZE is recognized as a true cultural center, which is why we have so many writers, film directors, artists, photographers and artists staying here. It seems the City cannot see the jewel it has right under its nose. They should be fighting to preserve….and even support it,” says Bob.

Bob alleges he has yet to see proper justification or explanation for the proposed demolition of his home and livelihood. “When we went to City Hall on August 12, they themselves, the department, said they had a legal obligation to give us a copy of the warrant within a maximum of 15 days. Until April we still hadn’t received anything.”

It would appear the City safety concerns stem from a 2001 law which states that any favela building built after 2001 cannot be over two stories. However, The MAZE is over 30 years old and is a well-documented building in the national media.

What’s more, per the City’s instruction, an engineer, recommended by the City, came and evaluated the structure in December 2009. He concluded: “As for the building (The MAZE) at the moment, it presents no deformations…that cause instability or risk. Therefore at the moment it is a solid building and living space.”

Malu, born and raised in the community, is Bob’s wife and runs The MAZE with him. She alleges the recent proposal cannot be based on any further evidence because: “The City didn’t look at the foundations, they didn’t look at the structure, they didn’t come here to ask if we had any relevant documents.”

Bob fears that were The MAZE to disappear, the community would face an intense campaign of evictions, with the ultimate goal to remove everyone. “The MAZE is just the opening gambit of the authorities to pick off the residents of Tavares Bastos one by one, thus opening the opportunity for real estate development.”

The Maze - images from Facebook page
Events at the Maze – images from Facebook page

Famously, Tavares Bastos was the set for ‘Hulk 2’, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and a Snoop Dogg music video, bringing national and international media attention, as well as significant economic activity to the community. The result is that the bar directly employs 20 staff from Tavares Bastos, and provides a stream of customers for the vans, taxis and other businesses. Lucelita owns a bar and works with The MAZE: “Whenever there is something on at The MAZE we supply them with pizzas and the like.” She believes she also stands to lose if it were to disappear. Moreover, despite never having a violent history, the arrival of Bob and The MAZE played a role in establishing a BOPE headquarters in the community and since 2000 there has not been one murder.

Even with the list of guest stars, The MAZE continues to be engaged with community life in Tavares Bastos. Bob and Malu have hosted music and English teachers who worked in the community, the space hosts community events and fundraisers for a ballet school and a football school in the community. They have raised over R$200,000 for the Residents’ Association as well as building materials, and the film teams that have come through have led to a career in film for about a dozen residents.

Bob explains: “We weren’t looking out to help the ballet school, but you know, Giane was running a ballet school and they got so many kids into the Municipal Ballet School. They were really successful and then the mayor took all the money away from them. He came in, said ‘its not my project,’ and took all the money from the football school (too). ‘It’s not my project, not my name,’ and took all the money away from them.”

The famous monthly jazz nights attracting visitors from around the city and the world are completely free to residents.

“If they destroy all of this, it will ruin my life’s work and to be honest it will ruin the entire community,” concludes Bob.

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