Juan Pantaleoni Rosello is an ex-politician and West End entrepreneur who’s larger than life personality and outspoken views have had a polarizing effect over the last 12 years. Opponents make him out as a pit-bull but he possesses a razor sharp mind that has allowed him to stay ahead of the game – his Soul City bar continues to be a success story. Here, in my final installment on San Antonio’s West End he exclusively shares his views for the future.
Juan: I was born in San Antonio, I have businesses in the West End and I was also involved in politics at San Antonio Town Hall for 8 years (2004-2011) so my views are clearly influenced by these 3 factors but I will try and explain in the few words available about our future.
The West End has existed for many years and to change its dynamics will also take time and time is what we need. For many years there’s been talk of the ‘problems’ of the area and the big mistake that’s been committed time and time again is to believe that these problems can be solved from one year to the next. In my opinion, this is the wrong view and we won’t be able to push forward until we all sit down and design a detailed plan with a realistic time frame adapted to the reality, complexity and scale of what we decide should be improved.
I’ve been asked to give my views on the future of the area but it’s also important to know how the West End has developed and become what it is today and to understand a little more of its history and how this negative image has formed so I read with interest the blogs of Martin, Peter, Nathan and Colin over the last few days.
It’s hard to get rid of the prejudices that have been reinforced over many years thanks to the dedicated work of several journalists and some residents who, having rarely been to the area, have dedicated themselves to drag the West End and San Antonio’s image through the mud each year. There are genuine complaints from some people with goodwill but there are also others who blame everything on the West End when really they should focus on an inability to manage their own business, it’s also evident that for certain parts of the press San Antonio is an easy target and it’s productive for them to always focus on the negatives. Such is life but unfortunately this approach contributes to generate the largely negative views that makes it so difficult to find consensual solutions that are fair and beneficial to all.
Above all, the first thing I must do is to recognize that the West End needs to change and that this change will only be possible and genuine if itinvolves all sectors, and by that I mean public institutions, private business and the local population in general.
The West End has a big future and should remain an important part our town and tourist industry. It already is an area of huge attraction as you can witness every day and night of the summer by the visitors in their thousands. The first problem that we need to work on is the negative perception of an area that also has many residents making it tough to reach a broad consensus on how to face the future but I am convinced that this future exists and is very promising. Why? Because the West End offers a unique product designed towards the enjoyment of young people that simply cannot be found anywhere else on the island, a product especially adapted towards and especially designed to take advantage of the predominant type of accommodation and the complementary services that San Antonio and the Bay has to offer.
One thing is clear: If you think that we can survive on ‘luxury’ tourism alone then you are very wrong!
The starting point to is to address and isolate the basic problems affecting the area: An oversupply of bars which generates a price war, closing times of the bodegas (small supermarkets selling alcohol), the need to totally eliminate illegal street/ticket sellers/PR’s, increased security, greater cleanliness and a general aesthetic improvement of the area and its establishments. Is this possible? Undoubtedly YES, employers in the West End have shown that sustainable investment can improve safety and the health care of visitors. The remaining problems have solutions that are easier and cheaper but it is the institutions that must lead and provide the necessary resources. I know that West End employers are heavily involved in implementing these and other improvements so now is the time for the institutions to overcome prejudices, understand the real truth about our town and get to work to improve an area that anybody with any intelligence can see, is a massive opportunity for San Antonio. Enough of the defeatism and whining, if we all work positively together then it will benefit all of us!
The West End business community is the first to be interested in improving the area and will join forces with those who propose realistic solutions but equally we oppose and are totally against those who transmit an image of decay and decline, either through ignorance or by misconduct, which is in no way representative of the reality of the situation.
I encourage everyone to spread the word about all the good things that the West End has to offer as our future also depends on winning the communication battle and we will only achieve this by working together in a positive manner and not giving in and accepting some of the shameful media campaigns that come our way every summer.
I am proud of the West End, are you?