San José Town Hall have announced new legislation under which no new Beach Clubs will be permitted, but all those currently up and running can carry on as normal – providing they do not make any major chances to their business.

No reference is made to the 2017 statement that 16 of the San José Beach Clubs would be prohibited from playing music in the 2018 season.

  • Editorial by Nick Gibbs

Where to start? What feels like a collective voluntary amnesia by Ibiza’s power-masters, and a good proportion of its press and public, leaves me sometimes questioning my own sanity.

It was only a few months ago, but none the less I have to confirm I am not dreaming by the pinching myself equivalent of going back and checking that, yes I did cover that news story, it did happen, it was real.

I have checked. Yes it was real. San José did issue a statement on August 7th 2017 stating clearing and categorically that 16 Beach Clubs had been issued notices stating they would not be permitted to play music from 2018.

That news caused a big stir. Our biggest of the year by some margin – it crashed our server. I know Mixmag had a huge international response, and it made the national press in the UK. No surprise, as it would have included some of the very biggest names in Ibiza’s dance music tourism sector.

For those unfamiliar with the circumstances, that article is a good place to start. Read San José 16 Beach Clubs here (opens in a new tab).

Reaction locally was equally strong.

There were those who said it would be a disaster for the economy and Ibiza’s particular brand of tourism.

There were those who were overjoyed at what they saw as a reclaiming of the beaches.

And there were those who adopted what you might describe as a sun-baked Ibiza cynicism as to whether anything would happen at all.

I ended the article with my own summation of:-

“But perhaps the most likely outcome is the most frequent. Lots of pontificating politicians, a few token photo-shoot denuncias, and everything will go back to pretty well normal, blind eyes turned all round, and the law more of a serving suggestion than a mandatory process.”

If only there was a Ladbrookes booth at Ibiza government press conferences, as on the face of this Wednesday’s announcement, that seems to be pretty well spot on.

San José Beach Clubs Announcement

The announcement was made by the mayor of Sant Josep, Josep Marí Ribas Agustinet, and the Town Planning Councilor, Ángel Luis Guerrero. They said the objective is to “avoid the proliferation of beach clubs and businesses of that type, to bring order and to apply more restrictive criteria in the activities that are linked to a musical venue”.

The regulations will (and when reading this prepare yourself for a big ‘but’ at the end):-

  1. Prohibit outdoor music permanently, though individual concerts will be allowed.
  2. Large establishments catering for more than 500 people will be required to submit a mobility plan and parking etc arrangements.
  3. New catering establishments on the beaches will be limited to a maximum of 400 square meters.
  4. No businesses of this type can open in a building which has residential units on the upper floors.
  5. No business of this type which has any form of gaming/gambling can open within 500 metres of a school.

That all seems straightforward enough, and many people may see the regulations as reasonable.

But, and here is the big but.

The regulations will only apply to new businesses that want to obtain a permit in Sant Josep.

Businesses already with a licence will not be affected unless they make, what is worded as’ “a substantial change” in the establishment.

So in other words everyone can carry on as normal.

I am not as annoyed about that as many people will be. I gave my personal views in the initial argument, and I am not somebody who wants to just ban all the clubs. I do not see why we have to approach it on such ‘all or nothing’ terms – either for beach clubs or against them. I love quiet beaches and have been disappointed when music has encroached. Port Des Torrent is a personal example. But equally I have had some of my most enjoyable and memorable times dancing on Ibiza´s beaches. Already there are designated dog beaches, nudist beaches, and i think a no smoking beach. They could just as easily designate specific beaches as entertainment beaches. How to decide which beaches get what designations is a much more difficult question, but not insurmountable. I gave my own ideas in the original article.

Objectionable

But what I do object to, hugely object to, is the outrageous and insulting way the political masters seem to think they can spin this issue – that we are all presumed too simple to understand we’re having the wool pulled over our eyes.

Worse than that, they actually presented it as if they had achieved a great victory for their people. “A place already authorized does not have to adapt to this norm, only if it wants to make some important change of activity in the business,” said Councilman Guerrero. “The current premises with the permits acquired with the old regulations do not lose their rights, they simply “would remain as non-conforming with the current legislation”.

Quote ‘non-conforming with the current legislation’, so that is outside the law then? But it is not unusual for a piece of legislation to have existing situations excluded. That was a major part of last year’s Balearic tourist letting legislation too, with the new more rigorous procedures and fees not being payable by houses already holding licences.

But in exactly the same way as applied in tourist lettings, the Government should be accepting that the situation is already at a point where it is shutting the door after the horse has bolted. OK it stops it getting worse, but it does absolutely nothing to redress the extent of the problem now. If San José could be considered the victim of a frenzied knife attack with multiple stab wounds, this legislation to prohibit any new clubs is the equivalent on an elastoplast, one of those small round ones that end up in the packet and never get used.

San José published the Diario’s report on their facebook page with the message “and we keep working for everyone” – shameless. At best it should have read “sorry, this is all we’ve got”.

But if it is all they have got, OK, accepted – but what is not accepted is the lack of any explanation as to why the change of heart, or even a reference as to there ever being another heart – and that is where this collective voluntary amnesia comes in. It is as if that press statement of August 7th 2017 never happened.

These things happen time and time again in Ibiza’s politics and i just don’t get it. I don’t like drawing upon U.K. comparisons, I chose to come and live here and all, but I am going to make one of my rare exceptions as I think many people reading this will find it relateable. Anyway, it is not so much comparing it to the U.K. as it is comparing it to what I think most of us see as a democratic political landscape. Can you imagine any scenario in which the Teresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, or your local M.P. could issue such a bold statement on such a controversial subject, and then say something completely different acting as if it had never been said in the first place, without there being serious repurcusions? Of course not. There would be accusations of a climb down, or shouts of a U Turn. Half the press would be demonising the treachery and the other half would be pointing out the past U-Turns of the person in the firing line’s opponent. Frankly pretty ugly and childish sometimes, but perhaps it is essential in ensuring accountability. Rather that than this ‘silence’.

Does it matter?

Why does it matter? After all, changes happen, it would be ridiculous if you pursued a wrong policy just because you’d already said it.

The reason it matters is highlighted by The Spanish Institute of National Statistics who issued a report in February last year stating that, after unemployment, corruption amongst public officials was still by far the biggest concern to Spanish citizens.

This is a perfect example of why that perception is still there. I mean look at the circumstances. Big tough statement in August that many of Ibiza’s most lucrative businesses are going to have changes imposed that will have a big negative impact on their income from the start of the next season. Come the start of the next season another statement is issued saying that actually those most lucrative businesses are not going to have to accept any new regulations after all. No explanation why. So what are people to think? Sleaze?

And a lot of people did think exactly that. Ask any of the ‘it will never happen’ sceptics/cynics why they didn’t think it would happen, and a good proportion will put it down to the exchange of bulging brown envelopes. This case will only go to reinforce that view.

I am not one of those who thinks there is such institutional corruption controlling Ibiza now. Not saying there wasn’t in the past, but now I’m not so sure. So why San José made that statement in August 2017 I don’t know. Open to suggestions. Perhaps they wanted a quick fix popularity boost with a disgruntled electorate. Perhaps they were drunk at the end of a session one night and thought it would be a laugh. Perhaps they were meeting their Mallorca counterparts the following week and wanted to show them how tough they were. Or perhaps they are all clinically insane. I don’t know. But what I do want to know, and even in the context of being a mere foreigner, but as a taxpaying one feel I have a right to know, is that the reason this U Turn came about isn’t connected to the installation of luxurious new swimming pools at the homes of our elected representatives.

Mickey Mouse

More importantly than me wanting to know, is that Ibiza needs to know. Whether stricter controls on Beach Clubs would affect our economy is open to debate, but I do not think there is much argument that this Mickey Mouse amateur political sleaziness is damaging. If the island wants to survive its current tumultuous times in the best possible condition to go forward successfully in whatever guise it sees itself –  be it ecological utopia, global dance music mecca, all year sporting destination, overpriced V.I.P. hell-hole, whatever it wants to be – it will stand a much better chance of getting there if it is taken seriously – and it isn’t.

The only people I know who take Ibiza’s politics seriously are the politicians themselves. Everybody else can be divided into though who laugh at them, get angry at them, or -particularly prevalent among those who have been here a long time – shrug their shoulders at them.

This has a clear affect on business and employment for example. Faced with a political landscape where you do not know what the requirements will be for your business from one year to the next, a constant stream of new and often incomprehensibly baffling regulations and restrictions, what are you more likely to do a) aim to build a sound and stable business aware and responsible of its place in the community, or b) get as much money out of Ibiza as you can while the going is good and be ready to cut and run?

It has an affect on the tourists Ibiza says it wants. A 22 year old clubber doesn’t give a monkey’s if you add a 2€ a night tax tariff on their room, or fail to offer good standards of service through poorly managed tourism. The higher income family of four does. They see the buffoonery of Ibiza’s politics in the U.K. tabloids weekly, and the more the politicians do in Ibiza, the more the island comes across as some freak-show – ironically then attracting  the tourists they say they want to prevent – but I’m sure even they have their breaking points. No indication whatsoever that our leaders even see it is happening.

And it has to be said it also has an effect on all of us. We may have become used to shrugging our shoulders, but perhaps we should have a higher expectation of those who dictate much of our lives. This isn’t about any desire to change Ibiza’s way, its cultural identity. I don’t think you can liken the ineptitude of politicians to Ball Pagés. It is about having people as leaders who are as far as possible fit for the job, but at least of good intent, and definitely without suspicion of corruption.

Questions

But it can’t be corruption can it?

To my mind there are questions that need to be answered so that we can rest comfortably that there is no sleaze involved.

We deserve to know what changed the Town Hall’s mind between August and February?

We need transparency over what consultations and representations were made between the authority and the affected businesses.

We need to know whether any ‘informal’ agreements were made with those concerned.

Without that information many of us will feel this is just another example of that ridiculous management that makes us laugh, despise, or shrug at the government.

A Thought

I will end with a thought. Just a thought, but one that may find particular resonance with any of the many small business who have had many new restrictions and controls imposed upon them in recent years.

Without the information as to why existing businesses were given exemption from the regulations, a reasonable assumption may be that it is due to some notion of ‘fairness’, that it is not fair to impose new rules on somebody already doing their thing. If that is the case, perhaps the decision makers would like to explain why such ‘fairness’ is applied to very big businesses, who if anything should be in a better position to absorb new restrictions, but is not considered necessary in dealing with small businesses? Can small businesses expect a letter telling them that in a new climate of treating businesses fairly, all changes imposed upon them will be repealed?

Whatever your own views on what I see as a  debacle, there is one group of people who are likely to be very happy with the announcement. I am sure the very astute business people who run the current venues in Sant Josep will have realised that henceforth it will be nigh on impossible to open a new venue. The only way for somebody to now enter the market will be to buy an existing business. That should see a tidy increase in the realisable sale value of the existing businesses. Nothing like adding a few million to your balance sheet without lifting a finger – happy days.

To the People

To the politicians I say, please stop insulting my intelligence. I am not the gullible twat you’d like me to be.

To the people running the San José clubs I say, I’m not naive enough to think for one moment you give a damn what I say.

To the people who want beach tranquility I say, Es Cubells, but keep that to yourself.

And to the people who love the beach clubs I say, carry on dancing.

 


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