Such a private party has become the star attraction this summer in Ibiza – normally a global destination for tourists who love dance music – as local authorities have kept clubs closed to contain a growing number of cases of COVID infections. 19.
For Ibiza club owners, who face a second consecutive summer of forced shutdowns, private parties have added insult to injury. Many believe their plans to reopen the clubs in late July, after a successful trial gig, were in part dashed because authorities failed to enforce the restrictions on private party planners. If anything, some site operators suggest, club closures have led to illegal private parties on the rise.
“The [COVID-19)] the numbers are now bad in Ibiza, but we were not part of the problem as clubs were closed while the large amount of private parties allowed infections to spread, ”said José Luis Benítez, the vice-president of Spain Nightlife, an association of owners of Spanish clubs. “We could have been part of the solution, opening with very strict controls, but we were not even given that option. “
A sign that the illegal parties have gotten out of hand, local authorities recently announced plans to hire private detectives to end unauthorized private gatherings, which they blame, in large part, for making Ibiza the new hotspot. COVID-19 from Ibiza, Spain. The island’s infection rate more than six-fold in July.
Seth Troxler, a techno DJ who has resided at DC10 club in Ibiza for a decade, said many DJs, battling the loss of income from closed clubs on the island, have agreed to attend private parties. “When a DJ is offered $ 20,000 in cash to play for a few hours at a private party,” Troxler said. Billboard of the island, “there are very few people who say ‘no’ to that.”
Troxler blames the authorities rather than other artists for allowing private events to unfold in a relatively uncontrolled manner.
“They’re really trying to turn Ibiza into a VIP-focused island, and they’re turning a blind eye to things that shouldn’t be happening,” the DJ said. “You can’t have a club, but you can have about 700 people at your villa, which doesn’t make sense to me.”
A British group calling themselves the Ibiza Underground Movement on Instagram hosted at least one rave at an Ibiza mansion over the weekend of July 3-4, according to posts on Twitter and Instagram and a story in Diario de Ibiza. The post said the party provided van service to guests and posted a flyer featuring UK DJs Jamie Roy, Ben Sterling, Skream and Hannah Wants. (Party organizers have since deleted at least two posts from before August 3 and all that dealt with Ibiza parties.)
Authorities in Ibiza, who did not respond to interview requests, gave few details of their attempts to crack down on illegal parties at the house. After meeting the police on July 28, Mariano Juan, a government official in charge of tourism, said the force felt “overwhelmed” and did not have enough officers to spot private parties, media reported. Police therefore also backed the idea of hiring outside detectives to help locate private party venues and monitor social media for planned parties.
(When he gave an update in mid-August, Juan said some detectives had already helped end illegal parties. He did not specify the number of detectives or the number of parties.)
Some club leaders see the detective’s initiative as little more than a publicity stunt by local authorities. “It’s nonsense … to make it look like they’re keeping the island open and the clubs closed,” says Neil evans, artistic director of Amnesia Ibiza and director of Electric Ibiza, an artist and concert management company. “We could have 1,500 (people) in a nightclub without COVID, with testing, but they’d rather allow the events of the villa to go unchecked,” he says.
Evans says local authorities “were systematically killing this island’s musical heritage,” undermining the clubs that have been the backbone of its electronic music scene, while still allowing partying on private grounds.
Local officials, for their part, have expressed concern and say they are scrambling to find solutions.
Illegal parties “represent a clear risk to people’s health,” Juan said in a meeting this month with Ibiza periodical. “In these holidays we have identified not only tourists but also residents and seasonal workers who then come into contact with the rest of the population and can create a problem if there have been infections.”
Until the number of COVID-19 cases started to skyrocket again, Ibiza only applied soft rules to private parties. As long as they did not charge participants and their number did not exceed 500, gatherings were initially considered legal. But from July 24, Ibiza reintroduced a nighttime curfew on gatherings – from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. – and much stricter capacity limits for any private event held before the curfew. The maximum is now 50 indoors and 120 outdoors. Authorities have also imposed stiffer fines for anyone throwing an illegal party, up to € 300,000 for the worst offenders.
Since June, Spain has grappled with another wave of COVID-19, attributed by politicians and health experts mainly to gatherings of unvaccinated young people. Overall, however, the country has managed to speed up its vaccination rollout at one of the highest rates in Europe, with around 67% of its population fully vaccinated through August 24, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Spain’s COVID-19 figures improved slightly in August, but several countries maintained travel restrictions for Ibiza and other parts of Spain.
The Balearic Islands were the only Spanish destination on the British “green” list of safe destinations. But the British government put the Spanish archipelago back on its orange list in early July, forcing unvaccinated tourists to self-quarantine when they return to Britain.
For the clubs it was a summer that has never been
Ibiza clubs – including Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel, Hï, Privilege, Pacha and Amnesia – had hoped to start their season after the island hosted an outdoor trial event in June at the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza. Benítez says the trial has been a success, with not a single known positive case among the 1,263 people who attended.
But that event was quickly overshadowed by another virus spike in Ibiza and the rest of the Balearic Islands. The 14-day infection rate of the archipelago reached nearly 1,000 cases recorded per 100,000 inhabitants at the end of July, against 161 cases recorded on July 1, according to local health authorities. The rate fell back to 415 on August 24, in line with a general improvement in the pandemic situation in Spain.
Benítez says the forced closure of clubs would leave site owners with “very [financial] losses ”, although he would not quantify them. Entertainment is a 770 million euro business on the island, accounting for more than half of all seasonal jobs, according to a study by an economist at the University of the Balearic Islands.
And Ibiza’s music season is huge: over a 22-week season, DJs tour seven days a week at eight main clubs – with average capacities of 5,000 people each – as well as dozens of sunset bars and after-party venues.
The final tally of losses, according to Benítez, will depend on the clubs’ ability to negotiate to receive additional subsidies from the Spanish government – although he says there is “little hope” that such funds will be granted. The clubs are also negotiating to keep their employees on leave until May 2022, before the next summer season.
For now, at least, site owners are not expressing concerns about permanent club closures.
The biggest clubs in Ibiza don’t depend solely on their own income, as several are owned by larger corporations that also own hotels, restaurants and other assets. Notably, Abel Matutes, a former Spanish politician who was mayor of Ibiza in the early 1970s, has also built a family-owned real estate empire: their Palladium Hotel Group owns Ushuaia – normally the site of performances by great dance artists like Calvin Harris and David Guetta – and Hï Ibiza (the old Space).
Financial companies have also invested in the island. In 2017, the founder of Pacha Ricardo Urgell sold the club’s holding company for 350 million euros to a private equity firm, Trilantic Capital Partners.
Some clubs have also expanded beyond the island. Amnesia, owned by Martin Ferrer family, promoted non-Ibiza events this summer, including in Croatia, and hosted seated music events at a smaller Ibiza venue, Cova Santa, while its main club remained closed.
Sit-down events in Ushuaia and Cova Santa have taken place with reduced capacity, social distancing, and face masks – in a setting and on a scale that bears little resemblance to the experience of a crowded dance floor.
Troxler fears COVID-19 restrictions and illegal villa parties are fueling a multi-year campaign by local authorities to tame the island’s hedonistic club culture and make the island a more family-friendly destination for tourists.
“The typical kind of clubbing spirit that has embodied Ibiza for so long based on music and freedom, this is the thing that is really kind of suppressed,” he says. “It’s devastating for the culture of the club as a whole.”
Additional reporting by Alexei Barrionuevo