The Balearic Government’s new laws designed to crack down on alcohol excess have made front page news around the globe and started off many debates.
Balearic politicians have decided to target bar crawls, happy hours, ‘balconing’ and party boats in 3 specific geographical areas, namely Magaluf and Arenal in Mallorca and the West End of San Antonio in Ibiza.
It’s no secret that these areas have a reputation for cheap alcohol coupled with a clientele of mainly young British tourists on a limited holiday budget.
While some will see this as negative press others will see it as an overdue crackdown and many resorts around the world will be watching closely to see whether these new laws could be useful in their own tourist hot spots.
The frustrating thing from a local perspective is that while the selling of cheap alcohol is undoubtedly an issue there are other problems in these areas such as pickpockets, prostitutes and illegalstreet selling that seem to be continually overlooked.
Ironically when questioned local politicians say that they are inhibited by existing laws. Double standards? When you live and work in these areas and your teenage kids roam the same summer streets as tourists then you want zero tolerance on the most important issues andexcessivealcoholsalesisn’t top of thelist.
Here in San Antonio bar crawls haven’t been around for years but unscrupulous bar owners offer ridiculously cheap drinks deals to passing youngsters that can only result in one outcome so any new laws against this are welcome in my opinion.
Party boats aren’t a massive issue as most are well controlled after previous unsavoury incidents required them to get their house in order whilst anything that deters youngsters from jumping from one balcony to another can only be a good thing.
But what will it really mean after the furore has died down? The reality is that laws are only effective if they are implemented with vigour, fairness and stealth and this is where we have previously come unstuck in the Balearics and it’s worth noting that San Antonio already has a shortage of local police officers.
Ultimately it is local business owners who need to self police to ensure that not only do they protect the reputation of the resort but also the welfare of youngsters, many who are on their first ever holiday abroad.
Getting the balance right is the biggest challenge and anything that focuses on protecting young tourists whilst also trying to change the perception of much maligned resorts should be applauded however the jury is still out as to whether this is a serious initiative or just political rhetoric that will soon beforgottenabout.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity or as Oscar Wilde once wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”.
Social media is a great observatory and a study by the consultancy firm Siblaire (commissioned by Balearic TV station IB3) has revealed that the use of the word ‘Ibiza’ beats all of the other Balearic Islands when it comes to Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
620,000 web messages were analysed between 15 December 2016 and 24 January 2017 revealing which Island is the most talked about online. The results were as follows:
Unsurprisingly the main topics for Ibiza web chat were tourism, discotheques, music and fun as well as celebrities who come to the island, the events that take place and the best selling song ‘I took a pill in Ibiza’.
Consultants Sibilare explained that even though they thought Ibiza would be prominent it was still a surprise to see the overwhelming results. The firm added that most web chat is spontaneous so it’s a great way of observing what the public are talking about.
Ibiza accounts for 13% of the Balearic population whereas Mallorca accounts for 77%.
Source: Diario de Ibiza
NOTE: This is a localised survey but still an interesting insight into Ibiza’s relationship with social media.
San Antonio has become the 2nd island council to actively take steps to curb the effect of the existing Tourism Act that allows hotels to also have nightclubs and beach clubs on their premises.
At a fractious meeting on Wednesday 31 Aug the ruling left wing council voted by a majority for a motion to urge the new Balearic Government to amend the existing law to prevent the opening of any future hotels who intend to also have discotheques and/or beach clubs as secondary facilities.
The council’s motion is in direct response to the news that ‘Space Ibiza’ is planning to open a 5 star resort hotel in the town which will also include a nightclub/beach club. As the plans for this were submitted in July 2015 the council say they are powerless to legally stop it but also say that they don’t view it with “good eyes”.
The leader of the opposition, Pepe Sala, urged Juanjo Ferrer, head of town planning, to tackle the issues himself rather than wait for central government intervention. Sala said “there’s no need to ask for anything from the Balearic Government as the town council already has the legal instruments required to decide on these issues”.
Juanjo Ferrer promised to study the resolution that Santa Eulalia passed in 2013 which was specifically designed to prohibit the proliferation of beach clubs with exterior music.
“One of the main problems for residents is noise. Music playing at all hours of the day in every corner of the island both in the town and in the country. There are beaches that become chill outs with DJ’s, restaurants offering techno music sessions and hotels that become open air discos…” said Ferrer adding that “in recent years various laws and regulations have given more and more freedom to tourist establishments in allowing these secondary activities”.
Residents v Tourists
These latest developments are part of an ongoing ‘battle’ between residents and tourists with neither side wanting to compromise. San Antonio’s 3 party coalition council assumed control in June 2015 promising to protect residents rights.
Pep Colomar, the President of San Antonio’s West End Association has spent half his life working in one the town’s and Ibiza’s most famous and busiest streets, firstly helping with the family business then taking the reins of the popular Bar Colon.
Now 37 years old, he has witnessed the evolution of San Antonio and remembers a different West End: “For years Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians came … it was very different from now.” Colomar is convinced that the return to that type tourism is possible, “it only takes the will of the people and the town hall to enforce the law”.
Here in an interview with Ibiza daily paper El Periodico he gives his views on the summer season so far.
Q: As we come into the peak season, from your experience, how do you think it’s going?
A: The Season is more or less like last year. This year started earlier and we had a pretty good May and June like last year but unfortunately we still have the same problems as every year: PR’s, illegal street sellers, prostitution, crime and theft.
Q: Last year the change of government occurred during the season but I understand that there are things that haven’t changed?
A: This winter, like every year, we talked with the Town Hall to plan the season. The Illegal PR situation had become a problem, each bar and club were allowed to have a specific number of legal PR’s in certain areas but unfortunately the old rules weren’t followed and the news rules have just aggravated the problem.
Q: How come?
A: The old rules weren’t followed and the numbers were exceeded. The Town Hall said it was difficult to distinguish legal PR’s from illegal PR’s (even though the legal ones wore reflective vests) and said it was difficult to enforce the law. On this basis the Town Hall decided to completely ban ‘dynamic publicity’. We agreed as long as it was enforced. Now can see that it isn’t being enforced and the unfair competition is brutal. Those who fail to comply with the law have grown and become strong and it has been a huge disadvantage for those who do not have people outside their bars trying to attract customers inside. Many are falling into despair and desperation because no correct measures are taken or being enforced.
Q: What does the Town Hall say?
A: We have talked with them 3 times since May and their consistent answer is that they are acting to enforce the law but they aren’t doing enough. This failure is causing us many difficulties and problems within the West End Association. There are people who are already saying that they can’t follow the law because their neighbours are ignoring it and they are suffering, it’s a very serious problem. They feel helpless because their neighbours have PR’s, loud music, open doors yet are calm because nothing happens, no police and no formal complaints.
Q: The problem lies in the failure to enforce the law?
A: Yes. If you have a law then you must enforce it. The laws have been passed but it is very difficult to monitor compliance if there are no police officers. We need more police in all areas and is absurd to not have enough. If there are no police on the street it is useless to have a law that penalises bars, the Town Hall should prioritise and tackle the most serious problems first. We have asked that if they can’t enforce the law then at least they should allow dynamic publicity again. Last year we hired private security guards but were told they weren’t allowed to do the work of the police so we asked the Town Hall, as an emergency measure, to let them accompany police officers but they said no.
Q: Is it increasingly urgent to change the San Antonio tourism model?
A: Yes, it’s urgent. The process needs to start so we can fix the things that are wrong. That’s not to say I just want nice families to come to San Antonio and nothing else because you can’t change overnight. If there are still these problems of public order, drugs, prostitution, crime then the model cannot change. First you have to fix all that and then the model will change automatically. It’s absurd to go to a trade fair to sell a San Antonio that does not exist. We must fix the problems first and them the model will change.
Q: How do you make the change?
A: The model change should be encouraged by both sides. The Town Hall enforcing the rules and entrepreneurs working differently, offering a higher quality product. The problem is that if the Town Hall doesn’t do enough then there are many bar owners who out of greed or whatever will continue to work illegally because it’s easier and more profitable but this shouldnt be the case. We are complementary offer. For us, if there is a change in the tourism model them it should be relatively simple to adapt to our business. This year there are 4 bars fully reformed in Calle Santa Agnès. But again, the priority is to end the unfair competition. It all starts with the rules. If you make laws then don’t enforce them you create 2 problems.
Q: So the ball is back in the Town Hall’s court?
A: Aida Alcaraz (Councillor for the Interior) tells us that they are making policing arrangements, but the reality is that the same problems are still here. It’s not enough and the situation has got worse. There is good dialogue with the Town Hall but this in itself is not enough, specific actions are required. I understand that we demand a lot but this is because they do little. Always they argue that their hands are tied by the law but as entrepreneurs we must demand certain things as we pay taxes and they have created rules that have not been met and have in fact had a perverse effect. If you create rules and can’t enforce them then that is making the situation worse as well as committing an injustice. They must be realistic about the strength of the local police, they say there are more agents than ever in San Antonio but the reality is that there are clearly insufficient. In addition agents do jobs that aren’t theirs, they are overwhelmed.
Q: Despite all these obstacles, it is possible to change San Antonio?
A: I think so. Everyone in San Antonio wants better and if everyone pushes in the same direction then the model change is possible. We agree with the rules but when you do not know how to enforce the remedy then it becomes worse than the disease. We understand that the police are overwhelmed but employers also also overwhelmed with a sense of desperation that the rules are not being enforced and some people do exactly what they want. They say complaints for non-compliance will be processed faster but nothing has changed. The situation has reached a point that is unsustainable and changing the tourism model is urgent.
The standoff between Amnesia & San Antonio Council has taken another turn with the announcement that the SuperClub has changed its hours for its widely anticipated opening party.
A statement from the club explains that it has decided to open from 4pm on 28 May and continue until 6am because it has been denied a morning licence and “despite the continuous obstacles and disadvantages….we will fight so that the magic continues in Ibiza and make sure the music never stops” encouraging people to use the hashtag #youwillneverdancealone
This is part of an ongoing row which has seen the club continually flout the law by closing late and then paying the ensuing fines. Amnesia has had 31 sanctions over the last 2 years paying fines totalling 102,000 euros leading to San Antonio Town Hall’s decision to refuse the extended hours application for its owning party.
Opening at 4pm is a surprising turn of events but Amnesia was left with no other option under current legislation if it wanted to extend its hours. Mirroring Space’s opening hours model is a risky strategy especially as other opening parties are on the same day however Amnesia has consistently delivered the goods and is rated by many as the best SuperClub opening on the White Isle.
The Ibiza Island Council has confirmed that they are gearing up for a big crackdown on the illegal supply of tourist holiday homes.
With the help of a specialist computer program the Ibiza government say they will be able to keep track of all properties being advertised for rental on the internet and detect the ones that are doing so without a licence and therefore illegally.
The new software comes at a cost 3,000 euros and has been provided by a specialised company. “It is a perfect tool that has been created by people who know a lot in the matter,” said Vicent Torres ‘Benet’ the Island’s Director of Tourism.
The Ibiza government and other pressure groups blame the proliferation of illegal holiday homes for the alarming lack of annual rental accommodation available to residents. Rental platforms such as Airbnb and Holiday Lettings have given Ibiza home owners the opportunity to ‘cash in’ during the peak summer months however this has caused the demand for long term accommodation to reach unprecedented levels. The homeless charity Caritas has also weighed into the debate calling for urgent action citing that some workers with contracts are being forced to pay 500 euros per month to sleep on a balcony.
The island government say that the computer software will become effective ‘in the next 10 days’ to begin sweeping the net in search of properties being offered illegally for holiday rental. According to Torres, the application will be “very important” to combat the problem. “This program provides so much information that the Tourism Inspectors can now open an investigation without visiting the site which was previously required”.
Those found to be illegally renting their properties face fines from 4,000 to 40,000 euros, depending on the severity of the offence. Legal tourist holiday homes must meet a series of requirements including a certain number of bathrooms as well as other health and safety features.
Vicent Torres, President of ibiza’s Island Council, and the 5 mayors of the different municipalities have come together to put in place an agreement on the closing times for clubs and music bars across the island that will come into force before next summer.
Big Clubs such as Amnesia, Privilege, Pacha, DC10, Space and Sankeys will now have to be closed by 6.30am whilst music bars (known locally as cafe concierto’s) must be closed by 5am.
The new local laws will have wide ranging effects not least in Ibiza Town where music bars have historically stayed open until 6.30am. There will be no real change in San Antonio which has already operated under a 5am licence for music bars (AND cafe concierto’s) over the last 2 summers.
It was also announced that if any establishments willingly break the law then the authorities “will impose sanctions that are commensurate with the offence committed, especially repeat offenders”. This last comment from Torres was aimed squarely at Amnesia which closed late over the past summer on no fewer than 15 occasions including a massive 7 hours late for their closing party. Torres went on to say that closure orders could be imposed.
This agreement will not be received too well by the nocturnal business people of the island who feel they have been squeezed over the last few years plus it will be a blow to Ibiza’s reputation as a party island especially with other destinations knocking on the door. However some residents and other pressure groups will be relieved that there has been stricter rules bought in to minimise noise and traffic.
Only time will tell whether these new laws will be strongly enforced but in the meantime the mud slinging still hasn’t stopped with clubs and beach clubs consistently accusing each other of illegalities. As always it’s never dull on the white isle.