The flawed logic of Ibiza's afterhours laws (Revisited) - Collateral Damage.

Words by: I-Voice
Posted: 8/9/08 13:04

Whether through 'The Times' of London, 'El Pais' of Madrid or the Voice of Ibiza, most Ibiza enthusiasts will be aware of the law dictating a new clubbing timetable for 2008.

The typical debate has been a tug-of-war between politicians seeking to change the island's image and those who fear what this type of policy means for the island. Without going to deeply again into the logic behind the law, it is important to highlight the driving motive, the economic motive. 

Xico Tarrés, President of the Consell Insular (Government of Ibiza), justified the daytime ban by saying after-hours "attract a lower quality of tourist and cause more problems than benefits."

Aside from the wrong assumption that most, even a majority, of daytime clubbers are some kind of drug fuelled zombies - when in fact many are workers at the end of a shift or others who love the fact they're not starting their usual 9 to 5 in the office back home - the objective of the policy was clear. It was economic.

It is no secret that Ibiza's decision makers want to change the island's image, the reality or as they perceive it, in order to make it more St.Tropez-like. For them, this means more money, less hassle (no loud noises and people having too much fun in public) and plenty of old, brown, wrinkly, nouveau riche types for the Consell to be wined and dined by. 

At first glance, the policy seems straightforward. Ban daytime clubbing and get rid of troublesome dc10 types who come to Ibiza intent on spending no money and causing mischief. Simple; one decision to affect one 'undesirable' aspect of the tourism that the island just happens to heavily depend on. 



Born and Bred Ibicencos.

Well then, let me introduce you to the collateral damage. Yes, the others, not considered for in the likely consequences of the original policy decision, who have been hit where it hurts most - in their pockets. Those affected range from some small unimportant local businesses, which manage to earn a living due in no small part to thousands of clubbers each year, through to some of the better known bars on the island. Add in a thousand stalls and stores, trades and crafts and plenty of your average born and bred Ibicencos and you've got a healthy plethora of people who can be considered collateral damage.  

The damage is two fold. Firstly, there are less clubbers on the island this year. Of course the impact of the global economic crisis is a factor, and a big one at that, but the law has given a perception that clubbing in Ibiza is over. Headlines such as: "Is the Party Over?" from the reputable 'The Independent (UK), and other poorly researched sensationalism, have driven a notion that somehow the clubs are shut, not just during the day, but all the time. Many will find it hard to believe but for would-be tourists who only catch more mainstream media channels, the message has been unrelenting and unanimous - "….haven't you heard about Ibiza, the clubs aren't allowed to open anymore" go the whispers.

This perception means less clubbers and, contrary to Tarrés' view, this also means fewer of the "quality of tourist" prone to spending wads of cash on food, drink, clothes, jewellery, perfume and any other tat they feel compelled to buy whilst on holiday. It doesn't take an economist to work out that businesses are therefore losing out heaving due to the fewer clubbers this season.


50% losses.

The second cause of damage is directly linked to the clubbing timetable itself. An example, bars in Playa D'en Bossa like Tantra who have for years enjoyed the Space crowd practically all day and night have been hit hard. With Space closed all day, that's right, you've guessed it; the customers of Tantra have gone AWOL too.

The bar closest to Space, Zanzibar, doesn't even bother opening during the day anymore. These bars are anticipating a 50% annual downturn in revenue for 2008. This was previously and investigated as part of this report nearly 2 months ago. 

Other examples, ever popular places to be seen Rock Bar and Base Bar, whilst battling the overall quieter season now also have to contend with a new problem. The well publicised 6am close for clubs has meant that traditional customers, who drank in the bars before going to the club, are now leaving the bar at least an hour earlier or just skipping the bar drinks altogether.

To reiterate, a policy, aimed at dealing with something that has absolutely nothing to do with you or your business, is to be implemented, yet the fact it potentially reduces your ability to earn a living by up to 50% is not considered or is unimportant. 


Licencing inflexibility.

Hang on though, there is more. As previously reported, not only are the police around your favourite party, but they are also around your favourite bar, café or restaurant, just in case - god forbid! - the music is on a decibel too loud after midnight. Not only is there the afterhours law but everyone else is being subjected to much tighter and more stringent controls on their licence as well. "But, that's only right!" I hear you cry. Well, legally yes and under the ever watchful eye of the local police, there is no room for manoeuvre. But, the problem is that many bars only get busy after midnight and are at their busiest come 3am, just when they have to kick everyone out. In the past, there was a cordial understanding that as long as nobody openly abused the licence conditions or had a rowdy bar going on until all hours, then there was some flexibility in the control.  

The approach in policing this so rigorously therefore represents a huge change in the attitude towards dealing with the most minor of offences. It'd be like returning to your car a minute after the ticket runs out and still being issued a fine. Yes theoretically illegal, but not dangerous, not irresponsible or likely to cause harm, and by staying open for 30 minutes it's certainly not damaging the image of Ibiza. Bar 1 y Dos in Figueretes is a classic example; a friendly bar that simply wants to cater for people from the many nearby hotels who want to have a drink. The bar shuts at 3am regardless of the fact that there is a full house and the owners are trying to earn a living. We're hardly talking about places creating zombies here, the "undesirables", just people who want to have a drink, many even probably after working somewhere. If the laws controlling the clubbing hours are draconian, then this attitude is worse. 

Vote loser.

Government silence seems to be the only response to local businesses on these issues, many of whom requested the opportunity to speak to counsellors prior to the law's approval in order to voice their concerns - but were generally refused or ignored. It's easy to look back with hindsight and say "why didn't you think of this" but it is pure impudence that the Consell Insular have not considered local businesses at any stage in the process even when these now victims were forecasted their own downfall. 

So then, economic policy 'Balearic style' means creating a policy and adopting an attitude that both directly and indirectly strike at the heart of one of the major income streams for the island. Tourists cast a vote when they book their holiday, go to Ibiza or not, hardly a matter of life or death. But for those who depend on tourists and tourism to earn a living and in some instances just to make ends meet, this is far more serious. The people ultimately affected will be the local people, either those born and bred Ibicencos or those have decided to make this island their home.  

This dream tourist economy, which is expected to become a reality as a result of getting rid of 'undesirable' clubbers, can't just happen overnight. Yet, the locals affected by a policy aimed at achieving such a dream have been kicked whilst they are down; global economic crisis and Ibicenco economic madness. What is most intriguing now must be the mindset of the PSOE government. The economic distress as a result of the law will have surprised them, worse still, this is money-in-my-pocket economics, the type that wins or loses votes. It is either knowingly or through ignorance that the local tax paying, service providing businesses have been affected. Whichever, they have become collateral damage for a policy aimed solely at a minority of clubs and clubbers. It is on their behalf that we speak.


Roberto Capuano
Politics Of Dancing
Ralph Lawson