"The Underground. If you've never been it could either conjure up images of delayed and dirty public transport networks or Wombles, none of which would be even faintly close. Once you've been the word will only even be synonymous with white camo netting, the sound of trickling water on the terrace, lounging on sofas sipping cocktails surrounding by foliage and a packed and friendly dance floor rocking to the sounds of sublimely underground tech house."
Tucked away in the trees across from Privilege are some twinkling lights that deceptively conceal the welcoming atmosphere awaiting the intrepid traveller. Once inside the gates, a wide terrace dotted with assorted sofas and comfy chairs is very tempting, but just inside the bar itself is the real treasure. Open every night, with extremely well known guests dropping in with absurd regularity, the vibe is low key, the party hedonistic and the music comfortably underground.
Last weeks line up was typical; Bar 25 from Berlin hosted one night, Rhadoo and Pedro another, Jose De Divina played at some point, and all were only announced via SMS to a local island database, and via an invited facebook group.
There's never been a poster or flyer for the venue, underground means underground, and the owners have actively discouraged press involvement, are renowned for turning away photographers, and actually asking not to be listed in island guides or reviews.
But the island politics of this summer have hit the bar hard this year, imposing a 4am curfew on what was a traditionally a late running bar, and without a single neighbour to complain, and 7 successful years of closing at 6am, it's hard to point the finger at anyone but the big discotheques and their now well-known and largely accepted deal with the authorities over their own early closing.
The idea was to establish a place were the venue was key, where it wasn't about the big name DJs, or the bright flashing lights of promoters, but about a low key charm and a family vibe, that meant you could pop in any night of the week and feel at home. Since the early 80's the brothers had ran a bar in the port of Ibiza and had witnessed all the changes to the island from the beginning...
Juanito continues: "We opened the bar in the port in '82 with my brother Jesus, after this I was working as a DJ in Ku, then Privilege, and in El Divino and doing some parties in Amnesia. We've been around my brother and me. For me, people always say, "Oh you must miss those times" but for me, with my work DJ-ing, I enjoy now much more than before."
"But, what I miss, is that it was like a family. You knew everybody: you went to Amnesia, or Pacha or Ku and you knew everybody in every place. And what was best about it, and what we try to create here at the Underground, is that you went there because of the place."
"So me and my brother and Nick were talking, and we always had this idea for a little place, where if a DJ comes to play, it's because they want to play, not because you paid them money. And that's what's happened now, people that can charge a lot of money elsewhere, but they come here, we invite them for dinner and they play because they like the idea and the place.
Guys like Mathew Johnson, and The Mole, and guys like this, they make the effort to come here, even if they're not booked elsewhere, they just like to come play, and for me I have real respect for that, they respect the place, which is important."
But even keeping themselves below the radar for so many years has not saved them from the wrath of the law this year, heavy handed tactics were slapped in place late last year demanding they now close at 4am as opposed to 6, as well as slapping them with a hefty fine for some misdemeanor in 2005 involving a punter smoking a joint.
So low key was the venue that the Town Hall hadn't even heard of the place when the order came to impose an early closing.
Juanito: "We'd never had one complaint, or one fine, nobody ever complained. Look at where we are! (set back from a major road) So 7 years of working until 6 o'clock without a problem. And then this new government changed the rules. They went to the Town Hall to tell them to control our hours, the guys in the Town Hall didn't even know about us or what time we closed. The Mayor actually said who are these guys? What is the Underground? He'd never even heard of us, we haven't bothered anybody, so why should he now come to tell us to close at 4 o'clock? Because the clubs are putting on the pressure, that's why."
For Juanito and Nick the early closure means they've lost their strongest supporters, the island bar and restaurant workers, who could always breeze in for an after work drink around 4.30.
Nick: "If a restaurant or bar closes at 4am, then there is no way that the working people can take a drink after work. This is the people we miss. And this is the problem, Underground was a place to come after work, to meet up with all the other crews, people you can't usually see because they're working. There is nowhere else where people can get to in time to meet before it closes. And its really sad that, the whole community thing is lost and broken down."
Juanito: "The guys from L'Elephant, they would look through the trees to see if they can see a light, for them it was a second home. When you finish work after a hard night, you don't want to go straight to sleep, you want to just relax and have a drink and a chat, then suddenly that's gone, and you have to ask what you're doing here in Ibiza working. To come here and sit on the terrace and sit with your friends for an hour, it's paradise. But now suddenly it's gone. And this doesn't help the discotheques, these aren't people that go to the clubs when they finish anyway."
Nick: "Because then the workers get into another habit, which is just to go home. At that changes everything too. Because at least if there's the choice maybe one night they organise with their friends to go to a club, but at least they're in the habit of going somewhere at night. But now there's not that connection."
Juanito: "And then who's going to want to come here to work, if they can't have a social life?"
Anyone who has been to the Underground in the last few weeks will of course realise that people are catching on quickly to the new hours, and most nights by midnight there's a good little party going on, but for the future of the island itself, the verdict is no looking great according to the Underground crew;
Juanito: "There's a lot of money in ibiza, and these guys (the government) they just don't realise. I mean, it's 3 months, 3 months!!! Even if it was really really noisy, and it's not anymore, cos they put roofs on everything, but even if it was really noisy, it's just 3 months! Come on! And then you have 9 months of quiet like hell. Before, in the 60's they needed it. They needed the business. Didn't matter about the noise or nothing.
You can go back to the 30's here, you can read books about Royalty in Santa Eularia about the bars closing at 4am or 5am, until the last person left, you didn't close. People can complain about the discotheques but if it wasn't for them, then there would be no service, no tourism industry in the first place. Ibiza is this great enterprise, and they don't even know what they're selling. They even changed the name! Ibiza! There are books about this since the 20's. People could pay millions to have a brand name as strong as Ibiza, and what did they do? Changed it to Eivissa!"
Don Juanito chats:
Back at the time, I met Danny Rampling, and Paul Oakenfold, and I remember Alfredo was playing in Amnesia, and they said to me, "Oh can you ask to Alfredo if we can play some records?" and you can imagine what Alfredo said! But it was true back then, nobody cared! It wasn't important, what was important was the place. Adamski was playing there (in Amnesia), with his keyboard and whatever, and he was famous in England at the time, but nobody here knew who he was, and nobody cared, it was just about the place and the party.
On Ku / Privilege
You can talk about how good it was back then, but Manumission last year when it was at Privilege made more money in one night than Ku made in a month back then (80s)
On Ricardo Urgell (owner of Pacha)
Ricardo Urgell cares more and does more to improve this island than any of the guys in the Town Hall. He said to the new Consell that if they could run Ibiza as well as he runs his club - it would be amazing. He said to me once, maybe he just did one hotel, but at least he did a good hotel! Matutes? How many hotels does he have? And they're all shit.
Abel Matutes used to go to Ku, to Brasilio's bar, the Coco Loco in Ku, and he would see Julio Igleses, Freddy Mercury, all these actors and famous people, he understood how important the clubs were. These new government, when did they go to the VIP of Pacha to see all these rich people with these boats? All the money there. Just because someone is older and has a huge boat, or villa doesn't mean that they don't go to the clubs? That's why these people come to the island.
On the parades
The parades were the biggest attraction for the tourists in the Port, so many pictures of the parades. I opened my bar in the port in '82, and everybody used to be waiting in the bar to see the parade from Ku, it was an attraction of Ibiza, in every postcard and magazine, all the drag queens and dressing up. Stopping the spectacle of the parades is like the government are just throwing stones at their own windows.
On the Association of Discotheques
Juanito: "Pepe Rosello, all of them, they made an agreement with the Consell, saying that they will close at 6 o'clock, but, everyone without a license, every party in another place that is not a discotheque, they must be stopped. They think that in this way there will be more people for them, but they're wrong. They will cut tourism instead. The more business happening on the island, the better for everybody, the more chances we all have."
Nick: "The more places that close, the island starts to look like a ghost town and then it's even less appealing for people to come. In the end you are just having an ongoing negative effect on the island, which is not going to be shown straight away, it's an evolving situation that'll be hard to reverse."
On the old generation Ibicencos
The Ibicencos have this village mentality. It's different if you're born here, than if you DECIDE to come here. For me, I think that the most Ibicenco people are the ones that struggle and move and change their lives to come and live here. Than just someone who is born here. I respect more the people that choose to come and live here, and in the winter too. These people have more respect for the nature, for everything.
Look at the West End - THEY created the West End - the Ibicencos, there was not one foreigner business there, I mean all these cheap hotels, the packages sold to the agencies, it's all Ibicencos.
This family they owned The Hotel Formentera, it was a famous hotel in Ibiza Port, Errol Flynn stayed there, Hausmann, Jean Paul Sartre, all these people had been there, it's a historic building, and what did the new Ibicenco owner do? He put KFC there! This for me says everything about how the old generations see Ibiza.