The recent closure of Bora Bora in Ibiza brings to an end one of the White Isle’s great clubbing institutions – the beachside venue was one of the few ‘free’ places on the island where revellers could dance to quality house music under a baking Mediterranean sun.
Granted, the installation of barriers separating the beach from the Bora Bora patio in recent years put a dampener on things, but for many Ibiza goers, the venue represented an important legacy element on an island increasingly awash with VIP culture.
But then again, there were some all the way back in the mid 2000s that believed Bora Bora’s best days was already behind it.
Back in 2007, 909originals Steve Wynne-Jones wrote an article for Slick DJ magazine on how changes to licensing laws – particularly a clampdown on daytime clubbing – was having a negative effect on the island’s club culture (and there are some that would say it never recovered).
The article can be found in full below.
End Of Days
The recent clampdown on so-called ‘deviance tourism’ in Ibiza doesn’t just affect the million or so clubbers that descend on the island every year. With new legislation on the cards prohibiting clubs from opening during the day, some of the best-known venues on the island are also at risk.
For the tens of thousands of Irish holidaymakers that descend upon the island every summer, there’s no better place to kick back, unwind and immerse oneself in everything the island has to offer. However, all that could be soon set to change.
While it used to be the case that a typical Ibiza holiday involved clubbing by night and hitting the beach by day, the current crop of ‘after-hours’ clubs – DC-10, Bora Bora, Space, not to mention the dozens of afterparties taking place after nights like Cocoon at Amnesia – have the authorities up in arms and ready to strike.
Pedro Ortiz, the president of the Ibiza Bar, Restaurant and Cafeteria Association recently deemed the level of disco tourism on the island as a “cancer” that was contributing to the island’s downfall. And he’s not the only one.
In November, council officials in the district of San Jose – where all three aforementioned clubs are located – broke the news that many felt was just around the corner. Clubs would be forced to close between 6am and midday next season, bringing to an end 24 hour clubbing on the island.
Council chief Paquita Ribas said that any clubs that choose to violate the rules would be heavily fined and closed for the entire season. Promising “tough economic sanctions on violators,” Ribas explained that it was unreasonable that everyday people had to have their lives “altered” to accommodate 24-hour partygoers, and that the legislation would have been brought in this summer, but for a change in council members during that period.
“Tourism would not suffer”, he claimed, nor will it affect small to medium businesses because visitors to nightclubs consume little, don’t visit the rest of the island and only attend parties.
The announcement brings to an end a terrible year for some of the island’s best-loved clubs. On June 8th, the week before the 2007 season was due to kick off, Amnesia, Bora Bora and DC-10 were issued with closure orders (one month for Amnesia and Bora Bora, two months for DC-10) for displaying a ‘disgraceful’ level of permissiveness to drug taking on their premises, during studies carried out by the Guardia Civil (the local police force) in 2005 and 2006.
Following appeal, all three clubs opened before serving their full term, with Bora Bora the last to reopen on the 18th July. For visitors to the island, it was an inconvenience, but one that was rightly rectified – after all, without the clubs, Ibiza would die off, right?
The authorities didn’t share this outlook. In July, the new mayor of Ibiza town, Lurdes Costa, targeted clubs that were operating ‘after hours’, and asked the Balearic government to speed through legislation on definitive club opening times, rather than go through a municipal approval process.
Simultaneously, a clampdown on illegal parties was instigated by the San Jose police, meaning it was getting harder and harder to operate a dance venue during the day. DC-10, Bora Bora and others reopened to a different set of guidelines, and one step over the mark would be a step too far.
The government of San Antonio, the mecca for drunk British partygoers, ordered a clampdown on drink promotions that encouraged consumption of alcohol, banned glasses from bars that served onto the street and ordered supermarkets to close at 12am.
As the season drew to a close, and for the first time in many years, the club industry found itself at a crossroads, and at the mercy of an increasingly focussed government. On the 15th October, just over a week after the decks fell silent at the Space closing party, the Consell Insular Eivissa, Ibiza’s local council office, issued a statement that said little to support the club owners.
“We are not prepared to let the island be identified with madness,” the statement read. “The night should end when it really the night, and the hours of the discos should adapt to human biorhythms. Those people who come here just to spend their days in the discos do not interest us.” November’s announcement further supported this claim.
Defending the nightclubs’ claim to open during the day, Pere Vidal, the president of the Asociacion de Discotecas de Balears (Balearic Discotheque Association) claimed that the season was getting shorter noting that April and May, relatively busy months, were very quiet this year, while October was “non-existent”.
The clubs, he noted, were not highlighted at all in terms of promoting Ibiza as a destination, with the current tourist fairs talking about “everything from flowers to football tournaments.” [Ibiza Sun] . A quick look at a new government-funded tourism website for the island, http://www.ibiza.travel backs up this argument – historical sites, natural landmarks and local restaurants abound; clubs don’t even get a mention.
“In recent years, Ibiza has become richer because of the party people coming to the island,” explains Samuel Guetta, editor of Ibiza-Voice.com and manager of Freak’n’Chic Events, which organises parties around the island. “Now that they’re very rich, they want to ban after parties because they think that they are damaging Ibiza’s reputation. It’s stupid, because cutting down on after parties in clubs means that more people are going to have parties in their houses or on beaches, with no regulation at all. You’d have less control, more people taking drugs, and even more of a problem for the authorities.”
Guetta believes the change in government – Lurdes Costa, Ibiza’s new mayoress was elected in June – was the main reason for this summer’s raft of closures, as the last fatal act of an outgoing government. “They had a vendetta against the clubs for a long time, now they had an excuse to act. Certain individuals had a problem with certain clubs. There were a lot of complaints over the years, but they never took the next step and actually closed any of them down. You had a lot of people out of work, a lot of people canceled their holidays. It was the last act of the old government; they chose to close the clubs and let the new government deal with the aftermath. Ibiza’s like a village, everybody knows each other, so it was purely out of spite.
“The local authorities think they can change Ibiza to a new St Tropez. It’s ridiculous; compared to St Tropez the service in Ibiza is shit, the hotels are shit, the architecture looks awful, the infrastructure is shit. It’s a different world. The people that go to St Tropez go for the St Tropez lifestyle, to spend money. They already come to Ibiza. They come to party.”
Of course, it’s not the first time the authorities have issued closure orders to Ibiza clubs. In 2004, on the back of evidence allegedly brought forward by the owner of Space, Pepe Rosello, [including the alleged discovery of ‘snorting booths’ at one club] , Bora Bora was shut down temporarily, along with DC10 and a number of smaller clubs.
For DJ Gee Moore, who built up the Bora Bora brand (www.boraboraworld.com) from scratch, it was a period of transition, as the island he loved gradually deteriorated. “Once Space closed venues down in 2004, it was a signal as to what was going to happen,” he explains. “I don’t think they realised how big a knock on effect it would have, including in time on themselves, I will have no sympathy for them of course, in my view they were the pin to cause the bubble to burst.
“Ibiza was changing as well, Playa Den Bossa was becoming like a mirror of San Antonio, violence was on the increase, the social scene on the island was diminishing, road deaths had become a norm and the drug problem was escalating beyond control of the police.
“One morning in 2005 I was sitting under the sign at Bora Bora, I put my hands behind me in the sand and felt something between two fingers of my right hand, I looked round and saw a syringe poking upwards just missing my skin. It scared the shit out of me and was a real wake up call. After that, I had made up my mind, it was time to sell up, take my Bora Bora name and concept and get the hell out of there. Whatever they try to pretend it is now, it is for sure not Bora Bora.
“Around the same time, people I knew were involved in a fatal car crash on the island and the violence was everywhere. It was all getting too much and was not the Bora Bora concept I had made or had vision of anymore.”
Having lived on the island for almost a decade, Moore left to continue the Bora Bora world tours and is currently working on developing his Bora Bora Music brand, radio shows etc as well as the new home of Bora Bora in Brazil. Looking back, he’s not surprised at the current series of events.
“The council setup is a mess, each area has its own governor. The island is too small for that. Each has its own rules, so there is no continuity of regulations, for instance, Space can open all day and night while Amnesia, Eden, etc can not.
“The owner of the Jet apartment complex where I set up Bora Bora is a guy named Florentino. He knows nothing about the club industry, but one of his best friends is on the local council; it’s the only way we could open. I remember asking his manager once if it would be possible to play music on the beach next year, he said it ‘all depends who is elected’. Jet doesn’t have a license permitting music and dance (on or off the tables for that matter), at Bora Bora bar or anywhere else.
“Pacha did actually stand up, back in 2004, one of the only clubs to do so and ask Pepe of Space why Bora Bora and DC10 should be shut down? Because of the drugs and that they’re illegal? All the clubs were illegal once, Space especially, for many years and their drug related incident record is hardly clean. A lot of the clubs still carry out illegal practices if you look carefully, as Pacha also pointed out at the time, it’s all part of the natural progression of club culture on the island. That’s how most of the clubs started out.
“Greed and jealousy are the two main forces driving the original clampdowns in Ibiza 2004. Now it’s become another mini Hacienda scenario- the drugs and violence have taken over. The clubs, especially some of the big ones can say they’re taking more steps to protect people, but it’s all rubbish – all they care about is the money. Once they have your money, you might as well f**k off, because you aren’t getting anything else off them.”
[Article originally published in Slick DJ Issue 5, 2007, link below]