• San Antonio Town Hall pass new regulations limiting opening hours of bars in the West End from 05:00h to 03:00h.
  • Terraces to be closed by 00:30h. Bars have 30 minutes to take down the terrace furniture.

Nasty Stench

  • Editorial, Nick Gibbs
  • Photo, From West End W#@kers, by John Stables

There’s a nasty stench about the West End, and it isn’t coming from the gussets of a Merthyr Hen Party.

The trials and tribulations of San Antonio’s West End are well known to most.

Reality TV

Ever since the first ‘reality’ TV show decided to portray the West End as, simultaneously, a parent’s worst nightmare of iniquity and vice, and their children’s aspirational utopia of fun in the sun, the die has been cast.

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The role of television in what has come to pass cannot be understated. I first visited the West End in the late 80s, at which time it was considered a vibrant tourist party centre no different to many others in the Mediterranean. Take away the double edge sword of ‘brand Ibiza’, and that is really what the West End has always remained. No better or worse than many other destinations that have actively sought that young tourist Pound and Euro, and largely done rather nicely out of it – and in Ibiza’s case with that extra brand reputation, very nicely out of it indeed.

Double Edged Sword

But of course we can’t take that double edged sword away. Ibiza has its reputation, and that has become distasteful both to those who seek social change – I am sure there are people with genuine objectives on that front, and also to those that have done well enough out of the last few decades that they can now afford to consider it distasteful – I am quite certain there are some of those.

It is totally unfair to put all of the blame on the West End. Having spent my first 8 years in the Playa D’en Bossa area, there is nothing you will see in the West End that you won’t see in Bossa – and worse. The difference that is cited by those actively campaigning to curb the West End’s vibrancy (I like that term, so I’ll stick with it), is that the West End is within a residential area, and impacts on the lives of the local population.

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Devil’s Advocate

Well, let’s go with that. Let us accept for one moment that the objectives of the powers that be in the San Antonio council are entirely genuine.

Their new rules are presented within the framework of what is termed a ‘Zone of Special Acoustic Protection (ZPAE)’. In announcing the regulations San Antonio’s Mayor said (words to the effect) that “it was time to reclaim the West End for the residents”, and that “the residents had been driven away by the nightlife in the area”.

That sounds a reasonable enough political standpoint. It may not be one that the West End businesses will find acceptable, but if he is speaking for the residents, acting for the people, fair enough.

So all I need to accept the Mayor at his word, is to show me the resident who, having been driven away, will now be moving back. Just one will do. Anybody?

Think it through. Can you imagine anybody who does not want to live in an area of nightlife with bars open until 5a.m., that will suddenly be chomping at the bit to move back into an area of nightlife with bars open until 3a.m.?

If I owned a house or apartment in the West End I wouldn’t be getting too excited about a sudden surge in property value, would you?

I don’t know anybody in Ibiza or anywhere that would have such particular requirements in their willingness to live in a party area, and certainly I have not read or heard of one person claiming that this would change their mind on whether or not to live there. You are either a person who would live in a party area, or who would not. A 2 hour change in opening hours is an irrelevance.

Possibilities

I can only conclude two possibilities from this.

The first is that the power-masters in the Town Hall haven’t thought that through. That they actually think it would make a difference. That would make them pretty stupid, and I would be concerned as to their merit to hold their positions.

The second is that it is an absolute nonsense smokescreen of an argument. That they are portraying it as being ‘for the residents’, when it is nothing of the sort.

My money is on the second.

Why?

So if not for the stated reasons of reclaiming the West End for the residents of San Antonio, why is it?

On that I am far less certain. I am not as directly involved as those business owners on the affected streets, and would bow to their own thoughts, but I have my own ideas.

  1. Power

I think it is a very telling consideration that this is not the first, and in my opinion is unlikely to be the last, San An restriction. In fact this cat and mouse has been going on as long as I have been connected with the newspaper.

It has been like some Guantanamo Bay water torture, a constant drip, drip, of new regulations. Not only does the Town Hall keep changing the goalposts, but it won’t even confirm which way you are meant to be playing, or even what the game is.

San Antonio West End has become to Ibiza what the word terrorism is to the United States. An expedient scapegoat of all the Island’s problems that can be called into play for a quick fix of electoral approval as and when required. Which is often.

I must concede to a jaded and cynical view of the motivation behind many of those who seek political power, and in my opinion San Antonio West End gives the opportunity to flex that political muscle, and get-off on their own sense of power, enjoying it for its own sake.

2. Weakness

However there is also the possibility that it is the complete reverse. Equally likely to the possibility of phallic insecurity, is that the politicians are demonstrating ineffectual weakness in their handling of the situation. That they want to be tough, but keep bottling the nerve required to act decisively, and so we end up with this extended drip feed of amendment and restriction in place of the absolute prevention that is their true motivation.

3. Hidden Agenda

And then there is also the possibility of the hidden agenda. Never one for conspiracy theories, but the idea that the objective is to actually kill the area slowly does have some merit. Consider the outlook of property developers looking at central San Antonio as prime estate. Buy it up at its peak and pay top dollar, or buy it up for a bargain when it is on its knees? A very clever and well respected local businessman put that idea to me. A man also not inclined to over-dramatisation, and let’s face it, many of the most successful property developers didn’t become so by playing fair.

All Bad

Which of those possibilities, or any others, could fit the San Antonio politicians I do not know – but all of them fit the mismanagement of the situation.

If you wanted to approach changes to San Antonio West End in a more effective and constructive way, a way that does not fit any of the above, here are some points that I think would be evident.

  • Do you want the West End to exist? Yes or No?

It is not a hard question. A clear and unequivocal statement of intent. If yes, move onto my next points, if no, say so, put the area out of its misery, and offer some assistance to those negatively affected by that change.

  • Involvement of the Business Community.

If you want to regenerate the area, the single most important people to assist in that regeneration are the people on the ground. It is common sense. The businesses want the area to work. Ask them their opinions, listen to them, involve them.  Work with them as allies, not against them as the enemy.

  • Extend the reach of the reforms.

Pretty well everything to date has been aimed at the trading environment – opening hours, music, etc. But that is far from the extent of the West End’s problems. How many thousand times do how many thousand people have to ask why the openly conducted criminality of the West End is not challenged? Ibiza has a shortage of Police officers, but that excuse cannot wash. We know the pickpockets are there. We know who they are and how they operate. If the Town Hall can muster a police presence for the visit of the British Ambassador, it can muster enough for an operation or two to apprehend these thieves.

And beyond policing, why are other deterrents not utilised? Perhaps we cannot find the police, but if we have the budget for new projects like the paseo extension from the tourist tax, surely we have it for – an idea literally off the top of my head – some CCTV to protect the tourists spending the tax?

San Antonio’s last mayor gave me the brush off, and only last month when the the current incumbent was challenged on the subject by Martin Makepeace he gave the incredulous response of ‘it is not our problem, go and ask your friends in the Police’. How can the criminality of the West End, that all of the businesses want to see an end to, not be seen as the Town Halls problem? Moreover, how can the businesses of the West End not see the complete hypocrisy in being told to get their houses in order when anarchy reigns on their doorstep?

  • Carrot first, stick second.

Alongside the participation of the businesses, if I wanted to affect real change, I would look towards some assistance to the business owners to recognise the benefits to be obtained from updating the business model. It is totally unfair to tar all the businesses with the same low quality brush. We receive endless press on all sorts of grants, training courses and assistance for everything from local technology businesses to individual artisans. But never yet have I seen anything to encourage or reward bars in their efforts to provide a quality business model.

By example – we all know there are bars in the West End and elsewhere that are serving what amounts to illegal hooch that has the potential to blind you or worse. I know there are many who do not, yet they are playing alongside each other with no discernible distinction for the passing customer. Encourage the bars to run a good business, reward the ones that want to, penalise the ones that don’t. End up with businesses that are so well run that social responsibility will come hand in hand.

Back to Reality.

But the problem is that for a large part of Ibiza’s population, particularly its native resident population, the West End is a totally unsympathetic cause. There is more electoral mileage to by made in continuing to attack them than there ever could be in adopting some more positive strategy.

It is a great shame that we do not have any politician with the insight to see that everybody’s best interests would be served by a total re-evaluation as to how to manage change.

The current approach is illogical, unproductive, and in all probability dishonest. And frankly, it stinks.