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Go BackBalearic blunder: the flawed logic of Ibiza's new after hours law.

Posted: 8/1/08 15:28

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As previously reported in Ibiza Voice the Ibicenco government finished the season with a fiercely buzzing bee in their collective bonnet about the horror of "after hours" clubs. While only the lightly populated district of San Jose allowed unusually early/late openings the fact there were even two places - Space and DC10 - where partiers could have a boogie before breakfast stuck in the craw of the local authorities.

By the end of the season they were determined to introduce even greater restrictions on club opening hours. The conversations rumbled on through October and November, with the government all agreeing that something had to be done. Now, something has been done and the councillors' proposal to enforce a strict ban on club openings between 6AM and midday is law. In other words, goodbye mornings at Circoloco, Matinee, We Love…, In Bed With Space, Troya and more.

Adios to the only safe, legal, supervised venues on the whole island where partiers could carry on after a great night before or where - often - workers could gather with friends to have a few drinks and enjoy themselves after a long night.

Reports confirming the new legislation said "the councillor responsible, Paquita Ribas… thought it unreasonable people were able to party 24 hours a day." Why one woman's opinion of what is "reasonable" deserves to be given force of law is a question which can presumably only be answered by reference to the Byzantine world of Spanish politics - her attitude is both paternalistic and arrogant. Perhaps more to the point she clearly doesn't even understand the dynamics of clubbing. The scare-story she told supposes there are hordes of clubbers staggering through the peaceful villages of San Jose like the chemical-fuelled undead, going from party to party, 24 hours a day. The truth is very different and much less dramatic. Take Circoloco (situated in a "neighbourhood" that consists of a marrow-patch and horse corral on one side and an airstrip on the other). Go there on a Monday and you'll have to look long and hard to find anyone who has been partying for 24 hours. Personally, in four years of regular attendance, I've never darkened its doors before 2PM. As everyone knows, the morning crowd arrives early and leaves mostly by midday; the afternoon/night-time crowd filters in late, as in any other club. So the idea that there is a terrifying wolf-pack of "unreasonable" clubbers wrecking havoc with their 24-hour-party schedule is simply false.

Space, equally, maintained its successful "after hours" events not because it's chock full of rave zombies rocking 'round the clock, but because a mixed crowd ebbs and flows throughout the day. The "24-hour-clubber" Ribas is so keen to stamp out is practically a myth. That a lot of perfectly normal people - both visitors and residents - work or sleep all night and want to have a place to go dance with their friends in the morning is an inconvenient truth the authorities have chosen to ignore in pushing through this law. What they haven't accounted for in their rush to stamp out "unreasonable" behaviour is just how unreasonable their behaviour is, and what repercussions it will have.

The most obvious knock-on effect will be the one cited by Space's Juan Arenas whose sole comment on the matter to Ibiza Voice was, "a lot of illegal parties will appear."

This is as blindingly obvious as the proverbial nose on one's face. If people can't go to clubs - licensed, regulated, sound-monitored clubs with strict security and owners and promoters whose interest it serves to crack down on dangerous or illegal behaviour - they will go elsewhere. Hotel rooms. Villas. Beaches. Parks. Boats. Anywhere they can rig up a pair of decks, or even plonk down a portable stereo, and pour out a few drinks. If that happens to be the local playground, they'll go there, or a sport field, or simply a street corner.

The Ibicenco government is fantasising if they think banning after hours clubs is going to make the people who attend them just disappear. The only material difference it will make is that instead of having to police two well-established, well-managed clubs the policia are suddenly going to be running around after dozens of disparate impromptu raves; answering noise complaints in hotels; trying to track down parties to remote beaches; turning up at villa parties where they have no authority to search or seize. Frankly, it's amazing the police didn't speak out against this law.

It will be an absolute nightmare for them next summer. It promises increased frustrations and confrontations which will further damage trust in a police force that became known for its brutality and excess this past summer. Instead of ameliorating problems between tourists and police there are bound to be more ugly stories, more suspicion, more violence. Plus it will distract the force from what is surely their primary duty: ensuring the safety and well-being of residents. Nobody is going to be impressed if crime rates go up because police are busy running around the island trying to stop people dancing.

The law also threatens Ibiza's fragile environment. Who is to say people who flock to a beach to drink and dance through the morning are going to clean up after themselves? And what about people partying in the woods and fields? Brush fires are a continual threat in Ibiza through the hot summer months and a few dropped cigarettes could be damaging - even deadly - in the wrong circumstances.

There is a broader safety aspect that appears to have gone totally un-remarked. Clubs are safe. They have emergency staff and can summon medical aid. Villas, beaches and forests don't. If someone breaks a leg scrambling down a hillside to a party, or swims too far out to sea, who's going to be there? Encouraging people to scatter to the remotest corners of the island to do their raving is a series of accidents waiting to happen. Not to mention the foolishness of prompting people to get into their cars and go driving all over the island after a night out, as opposed to jumping into a taxi to a near-by.

The after hours ban is harmful in virtually every aspect, and has every hallmark of having been rushed through based on wishful thinking rather than a reasoned assessment of the facts. The only thing that will mitigate its potential for damage is the one thing Ribas and her cohorts don't believe exists: the goodwill and respect of everyone who loves Ibiza and chooses to return year after year. The government seems to have forgotten that freedom and tolerance are what Ibiza is all about but the party people haven't - and we'll keep the music playing, keep dancing and keep the spirit of the island alive.




Words by The Voice of Freedom