After a financially paralyzed year for most of Ibiza’s hospitality and entertainment sector, the Covid vaccine is finally being implemented and the future is starting to look much brighter for the island’s tourist economy. A moment that should be positive and for the main leisure companies of the island to come together to create the most attractive vacation proposal with the aim of safeguarding tourism in 2021.
On the contrary, the ruthless internal battle continues between the opposing political parties and hotel and club owners on what kind of tourism and business are considered acceptable. There is a cure for Covid but there is still a debate and a desire to kill the tourism sector that feeds the economy of Ibiza. The irony of this situation is quite incredible, not to mention that it is enormously detrimental to securing a future.
Pepe Rosello, the founder of the Space nightclub is publicly pushing for the permanent closure of day clubs and beach clubs, as well as trying to deter the under-30 tourist market. I wonder if this reasoning may be really justified as he was the original pioneer of discos. Or is this damaging public tirade more about Roselló’s bitter feud with his former partner and fellow Ibiza leader Abel Matutes of the Palladium Group and Ushuaïa because he didn’t renew his Space nightclub rental?
To put the subject in perspective, back in the 1990s, the owners of big clubs like Space were the kings of the island: they had extreme influence both in terms of power and importance, they controlled the entertainment scene and promoted a large part of the ever-growing tourism economy. Pepe Roselló was one of those kings and nightclubs during the day were a big part of his business. In the 90s the ‘Carry On’ party at Space was the 2nd biggest party at their world-famous club. That changed in 2001 with the start of Carl Cox’s Tuesday night residency. Pepe decided to be both a day club and a night club and this was the beginning of a much more lucrative time for Space.
Later, Pepe worked with promoters to develop what became the hedonistic 22-hour Sunday party “We Love.” In 2007, Roselló had created a monstrous business where the clubbing season began and ended with giant festivals of 15000 people and his nightclub had grown to the point that bringing together 8000 people for each party was the norm. It was a smart move: the terrace outside was closed and the club increased enormously in size. Roselló and his business partner Abel Matutes were indeed a formidable partnership then, but it was Pepe and the Space team that really made the club work and Matutes received a percentage of the profits as owner of the Space building.
Pepe now refers to “lawless leisure”, but in fact he was one of the kings of that golden age. Even later, when nightclubs were forced to enclose, the sound level outside their buildings was well above what is acceptable today and the opening and closing times were largely the ones that club owners wanted them to be. There were laws, but they were largely ignored. Almost all companies violated the laws, but only the truly powerful could do so without fear of retaliation.
Pepe was and is at the top of the tree and few caused problems that he could not solve. But he knew that after hours couldn’t last forever and by 2008 when the local government prevented clubs from opening until 4.30pm, Pepe was generating almost all of his income after that time. The after hours legal parties ended in 2008, the government successfully stopped this trade and Pepe was smart enough not to suffer financially; he was an unbeatable and in many ways irreplaceable force in Ibiza’s entertainment industry. However, the main problem he faced was the same as Pacha icon Ricardo Urgell: the problem of succession.
Matutues owned the Space building and it was during his association with Pepe that he proposed to convert the hotel across the street into a branded Space hotel, but Pepe always refused. Roselló’s ability to adapt and grow his business into the future will go down in Ibiza’s history as unsurpassed. He was the man who had created an outdoor terrace that was the best place to continue the party and then moved on to the evening hours while having the unique skills to drive people to the disco at 8 o´clock, 5 or 6 hours earlier than less skilled competitors. His vision was truly inspired and yet as he got older he naturally chose to slow down, but the entertainment industry around him didn’t.
Pepe now attacks people who previously worked with him, such as José Luis Benítez, current manager of Ocio Ibiza. Benítez works for Matutes today, but in the glory days of Space he was one of Pepe’s most loyal employees. Roselló attacks the lack of legality of these new leisure venues yet all the laws required to police this scene already exist today. Instead of being in the era of “lawless entertainment” we are in the final transition to fully regulated and legal entertainment and this transition requires time and understanding, as well as the application of laws and the redrafting of some that are not of the law.
And in this intriguing story, I appear. A young Irishman co-founder of one of the most important parties that has taken place on the entire island of Ibiza: Manumission and also co-founder of the Ibiza Rocks Group.
In 2009 I invited Abel Matutes Jr. to a live concert in the courtyard of my hotel, Ibiza Rocks, to show him this innovative concept and to negotiate the launch of Mallorca Rocks at a hotel owned by Matutes in Magaluf. Matutes proved to be a very useful partner for me and, with the help of his army of lawyers and technicians, we were able to legalize the Mallorca Rocks Hotel’s open-air concert activity, which became an instant success. He then used the same legal process to obtain the permits for the Ibiza Rocks Hotel and then Matutes legally launched Ushuaïa; A hotel idea inspired by the same model of the Rocks Hotels but instead of live bands they hired world-class DJs and changed the entire panorama of the entertainment industry in Ibiza overnight. While the Matutes empire enjoyed this new success, I was dealt a very bitter blow, which has given me fascinating first-hand insight to not only deal with it, but to push myself to better myself.
At that time I had 3000 beds in the Mallorca Rocks project in Magaluf and after 5 years of continuous growth Matutues turned over the properties to the BCM empire and overnight I lost practically all my Mallorca business. He found another person who invested around 18 million euros in his properties and carried out the roadmap that he had suggested to expand the business. It was a very tough trick and it hurt as I had been the one who had shown the Matutes family the way forward and inspired the idea of Ushuaïa and, as a direct result of my ideas and passion, they had transformed their entire business by increasing its value by hundreds of millions. However, this helped me to come back and improve myself and thus continue working. I also have to say that my business only exists today because Matutes helped me get all the necessary permits and licenses.
Exactly the same thing happened with Pepe at Space, so I really understand him but I also acknowledge that Matutes did nothing wrong other than making smart decisions for his own benefit without empathy for anyone else. He did the same to Pepe as he did to me, but I also fully recognise that without his skills and involvement, my own business would not exist today, because from that setback I had no choice but to recover and grow.
Being upset that Matutes acted as he has done many times before and being commercially astute and uncharitable towards his partner is no reason to launch a hate campaign against everything new on the island that arose out of these post 2011 changes. Matutes gave me exactly the same treatment that he gave Pepe, but next time I would be much smarter.
I admire and respect Pepe Roselló very much and I really feel that he has been fundamental in the evolution of the Ibiza entertainment industry. Pepe and his team were true innovators and he was the owner of the club with which it was easiest for me to do business. I respect him and I like him a lot. With that said, I am convinced that his current schedule is motivated by his bitterness towards Matutes and it is ridiculous and hugely damaging to the islands entertainment industry to try to disguise it as anything else.
Matutes took advantage of the enormous talents of Yann Pissenem and Ushuaia to go from strength to strength. His daytime concept became competition for Space and, while Ushuaïa’s revenues increased, Space’s began to decline. The Matutes team felt they could do a better job exploiting the building themselves and the fact that Hï is now the most successful club on the island is proof that they were right. Space was Pepe’s greatest achievement and at his peak he had something that many believe Hï will never achieve, so it’s easy to understand the anger and sadness over losing something that he had worked so hard to build.
As for my story with Pepe, when I arrived on the island in 1994, some 26 years ago, I was 23 and I launched the Manumission events in Ku (Privilege) and shortly after our ‘Carry On’ after hours parties at the Space day club . Back then, Space only had a daytime party on Sundays and our Manumission after party on Tuesday mornings. Most people left Privilege around eight in the morning for Playa d’en Bossa.
While some ventured into the dark interior of Space, most waited for the terrace to open at 10am to experience what really was a magical party. We all cheered as planes flew overhead. In my opinion, at the time, Space was the best run club in the world. Pepe was tough, controlling the use of illegal substances, but the reality is that people came from being up all night to continue the party.
This is the true story of Pepe Roselló but the truth is being distorted today to adapt to a completely different one to damage Matutes, which is understandable in the sense that he hurt him deeply.
It suggests that these hotels are illegal and yet I have all the permits and licenses to operate my “open air auditorium” at the Ibiza Rocks Hotel. We do not generate noise pollution and there has not been a single moment when Ibiza Rocks Hotel has violated the legal limits of sound in the last 3 years. I don’t think all indoor discos can say the same. Contrary to the claims that hotel establishments like mine only paid 10% VAT between 2013 and 2016, instead of the 21% that nightclubs paid, it is completely false. It is a fact in the public domain that Ibiza Rocks paid VAT at 21%
How can Pepe Rosello be the man to lead this movement against daytime leisure? He was the king of after-hours and tried to open his own Space Hotel in San Antonio to emulate Matutes’s business model. Together we turned Playa d’en Bossa into the biggest after hours the world has ever seen and we dominated the area acoustically, but I wasn’t responsible for Space, Pepe was. How can he now have credibility in trying to stop others who follow in his footsteps and evolve the tourism model by finding new ways of doing things, like we are, all inspired by the fantastic example he set?
Why should we get into a fight based on bitterness, anger and bad blood that is not ours? I simply won’t tolerate it or let my legitimate, hard-earned business suffer from it. Covid has set the world and Ibiza back, and we undoubtedly risk a drop in quality as a result. While the repositioning of the tourism proposal is essential, it is also essential to recognize how much repositioning has already been done. The skill is not about killing the things you don’t like, but about embracing and supporting the things you like. If you don’t have a better idea to replace something you are trying to eliminate, the resulting void invariably results in a reduction in quality and creates the opposite effect as desired.
Today, unlike in the 90s, Ibiza is not just parties and discos, there are other leisure offers that make the island a much more varied place and we must also not lose sight of the fact that beach clubs and hotels with music are not ‘after hours’.
Original Article published in The Periodico de Ibiza on 13 December 2020