Noisey

Inside the Police Crackdown on Ibiza's Endless Party Culture

Ibiza is evolving from a party destination to a playground for the wealthy elites—and its nightlife is feeling the growing pains.

by Michelle Lhooq
Nov 12 2015, 10:16pm

Earlier this summer in June, the entertainment media gleefully broke the news that MTV would be bringing its infamous TV series, Jersey Shore, to Ibiza. The new series was called—what else?—Ibiza Shore. And to judge from the marketing campaign, it seemed like a modern-day version of Paul Oakenfold's mythical Ibiza bender in 1987, only with more tank tops, bass drops, and all-you-can-drink fireballs.

Local politicians—horrified by the sex, booze, and drug-soaked party culture that the MTV series has made its name on—moved quickly to keep the show off the island. "If we can stop this, we will," Vicent Torres, the president of Ibiza's government, told the Guardian. "It's a matter of image... That's a side of Ibiza that we're not interested in at all."

The cast of Ibiza Shore

Ibiza residents joined the fight. Nearly 25,000 people signed an online petition demanding the show's cancellation; businesses on the island vowed to boycott the TV production. One particularly enterprising local named Jaume Torres tried to trademark the name "Ibiza Shore" to keep MTV from using it. And Alexis Carini, president of local catering association El Catering Francés, explained to Music Times that he was so determined to stop the show from airing that he was willing to let his business take an estimated hit of €27,000 as a result of refusing to provide services to the crew.

"For the past few years we've been working to change the image of Ibiza, after years of reports about vulgarity, drugs and people vomiting in the streets," Carani said. "That's not how the island is any more."

The island's collective efforts worked. In August, MTV's parent company Viacom announced via a public statement that the show was called off "due to circumstances beyond our control." Torres celebrated the decision, telling the Guardian that it represented "a victory for the citizens of Ibiza."

The cancellation of Ibiza Shore is hardly an anomaly. Even though the Balearic Islands' economy is sustained by the tourism industry—which makes up 72% of its GDP—the type of tourist that Ibiza wants to attract is changing. The Euro club rats who have flocked to the island for iconic clubs and non-stop parties—perhaps best encapsulated by the Vengaboys' 1999 Europop hit, "We're Going to Ibiza"—are making way for deep-pocketed royals, celebrities, CEOs, and their families.

Paris Hilton raised $100,000 for children with disabilities by throwing a kiddie rave at Amnesia

In September, British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife took a trip to Ibiza to visit friends, including Mick Jagger's daughter Jade, who owns a luxury villa on the island. Paris Hilton threw a party for children with special needs during her residency at local mega club Amnesia this summer. Even the New York Times has taken note of the shift, citing the infamous fist-fight between Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber at Cipriani Ibiza in 2014 as a sign that "the island was now being staked out by the world's trendiest pay-to-play big shots, trailing after the models, the photographers, the fashion designers and the art directors who are always early to the party."

Ibiza is evolving from a tourist party destination to a playground for the wealthy elites—and intentionally or not, local authorities, the Balearic Ministry of Tourism, and residents are fueling the change through a perfect storm of anti-partying legislature, environmental activism, and concerns over the island's global reputation.

Ibiza Has a Water Problem

This year, the local government has tightened regulations over beach bars and clubs on the island, responding to complaints from residents over parties getting more frequent and out of control. In October, the island's governing council imposed a 6:30AM curfew on megaclubs, effective next year. Bars and music venues will have to close at 5AM. The Balearic government also proposed in September a new tourist tax of €1 to €2 per person per day, effective next year. (Details on where and how the tax will be paid are still being hashed out.)

This levy will hit middle-class visitors hardest—a family of four would have to cough up an additional £80 for a fortnight's stay—and angry tour operators fear it will drive away business; ABTA, the UK's largest travel association, even called it "a recipe for disaster." But officials argue that the revenue will go towards easing the significant environmental strain tourists are putting on the island's limited natural resources. "It is a small price but the benefits will be enormous," said the Balearic Minister of Tourism Biel Barcelo (who is also the Vice President of the Balearic government and leader of the left-wing political party Mes), in an interview with the Majorca Daily Bulletin.

As locals attempt to save Ibiza from becoming the Jersey Shore of the Mediterranean, the nightlife industry is starting to feel the pinch of these growing pains. Parties across the island that previously operated with relative impunity from the law are facing widespread crackdowns, as authorities seek to enforce new regulations.

Merrymakers at Pukka Up, a popular boat party in Ibiza (Photo via PukkaUp.com)

Parties on large tourist boats—which one commenter on a local forum called Ibiza Spotlight likened to "clubs at sea"—are also facing tighter restrictions this year concerning everything from music volume to capacity, food hygiene, and which coastal waters they are allowed to moor in, including those surrounding neighboring islands. The police force demonstrated their serious intent to enforce the new laws by raiding a party boat named Saga at the beginning of the summer that did not have licenses to cover all of its activities.

But perhaps the most visible victims of Ibiza's stricter regulations were the string of free beach parties—often regarded as some of the best and most essential parts of the free-spirited island culture—that got shut down by the police this past summer.

"With Paris Hilton DJing at Amnesia, Ibiza is turning into Las Vegas."—Carl Craig

One of those parties was Rumors, a popular party started by Israeli tech-house DJ Guy Gerber that often drew up to 3,000 people to a beach-side bar called Beachhouse. On September 13, plainclothes officers visited the Sasha and Miss Kitten-headlined party while it was in full swing, shutting it down for more than an hour. Eventually, the party was allowed to resume, but music was only allowed to be played inside and no more people were allowed to enter from the beach.

Guy Gerber's Rumors party at Beachhouse in Ibiza

A week later, Guy Gerber posted an update on the party's Facebook page: "We're very sad to announce that RUMORS will not be happening this Sunday due to new rules and regulations that have been implemented on the island... Because of these restrictions we can't continue in a way that will preserve the magic that we've experienced together."

Guy Gerber on Ibiza: "This Island Still Has Its Magic"

When I spoke with him on the phone a month later from his studio in Toronto, Gerber explained what happened from his perspective: "In Ibiza, you have to respect the situation—there are a lot of forces that have been going for a long time, and Rumors was a new thing. I didn't promote it or talk about it too much, and tried to keep it as low-profile as possible, but [the authorities] just found out." He also admitted that Beachhouse also didn't have "too many licenses."

"The government has changed in Ibiza, and sadly they want to change the island—they want to have less people partying and less people getting fucked up," Gerber continued. Beachhouse is parked in the middle of Playa d'en Bossa—a long stretch of beach on the island's southeast coast that has a reputation for drawing seedy British tourists. According to the New York Times, the area is being eyed by the Matutes family, one of the biggest investors in Ibiza, which has proposed a $380 million plan to revitalize the area, including building a luxury mall and golf course. Per the article, the plan has been stalled as local businesses worry about hits to their business—but it could one of the reasons why Gerber's party was hit.

"Free parties on the beach is what the island is about. There's no need to think—you just come and hang out, it's easy."—Guy Gerber

"It's a shame because free parties on the beach is what the island is about," Gerber said. "There's no need to think—you just come and hang out, it's easy."

Berlin-based techno DJ tINI agrees that beach parties are an essential part of Ibiza's culture. The Ibiza regular has spent 13 seasons in Ibiza, and but this year was the first time that her five-year-old tINI and the Gang beach party, which ran every Wednesday at a bar right next to Rumors called No Name, got shut down.

On July 15, eight to ten policemen arrived just after tINI had finished her set. "They went straight to the booth and threatened to take the soundsystem away if we dared to turn the sound on again," she recalled. "There wasn't even a moment of 'please lower the music.' They were super rude. It was quite an uncomfortable situation."

Like Gerber, tINI said she found out that No Name was lacking the proper license to have a speaker system on the beach only after the police arrived on the scene. She denies knowing this beforehand. "[The police] were in the right to shut us down," she said. "But everyone else is doing it as well."

The police stopping by tINI and the Gang's party at No Name in Ibiza (Photo by Tasya Menaker)

The day after her party got shut down, tINI posted a photo of the police's visit on her Facebook, with the caption: "its [sic] sad to see ibiza changing so much... and not for the better. what once brought all like minded people together gets slowly destroyed."

tINI believes the reasons for this beach party crackdown are political. "They changed the government and you can feel it in a lot of ways," she said over the phone, referring to a coalition of two political parties, the left-leaning Més and PSOE, which wrestled control of the Balearic Islands over the ruling conservative People's Party (PP) during an election earlier this year in May.

"From the new rules for afterparties to the beach events, I have the feeling the new government wants to clean up Ibiza. But they're not thinking about how much money comes in through us ravers and DJs—or what would happen to this island if they only have VIPs playing golf, but no rave kids."

Carl Craig at a Detroit Love party at No Name in Ibiza (Photo via Carl Craig/Facebook)

Carl Craig's Detroit Love party was also supposed to be hosted at No Name on July 28, but was cancelled in the wake of tINI's raid. Talking to me from his home in Detroit, Craig said he also believes the crackdown on beach parties to be politically motivated. "Our parties and tINI's parties were casualties of the new regime," he said. "There is a whole new city council, and it's very possible that the people who got voted in see parties as a virus instead of something that helps the place. Maybe they see what's making money and want to focus on that—with Paris Hilton DJing at Amnesia, Ibiza is turning into Las Vegas."

Unlike Vegas, however, Ibiza's party scene has a very grassroots history; the island's clubs and bars are present-day vestiges of the hippie culture that came to the island in the 70s, with their trance parties on the beach and in the mountains. Especially with its targeting of beach parties, this season's wave of law enforcement seems to run against what many consider to be an essential part of the island's history—or what Craig called the "true vibe" of Ibiza. "There's the concept that you can come to Ibiza and enjoy music anywhere, because that's how I've always known the island to be," he said.

"I have the feeling the new government wants to clean up Ibiza"—tINI

"It's very short-sighted for the politics to get in the way," Craig concluded. "They are going to take away the spice from the island, and if they keep going the way they're going, Ibiza is going to be lame—and it won't be cool again for another 20 years."

Next summer will bring even more change with the 6:30AM curfew, which will be enforced with tickets and fines. In previous years, each of Ibiza's five municipal zones had its own curfew, which was rarely followed anyway; when I stopped by Amnesia's closing party this year, I stumbled out—along with five thousand other revelers—when the club closed around 2PM.

This Video of Confused Ibiza Clubbers Is an Ode to the Beautiful Disappointment of Life

But the situation on the island is more complicated than it appears. Some promoters support the idea of the government having more control over the parties popping up all over Ibiza. Nacho Capella, the PR manager at Amnesia and a promoter for a popular German techno party there called Hyte, thinks the beach parties are partly to blame for this new club curfew. "The island was already a party island, but it was more respectful and controlled before," he said over the phone. "Now, everyone is a promoter and a DJ. This summer was too much—three or four days a week there were beach parties. It's hurting our business at the big clubs."

The crowd at Amnesia's closing party in October (Photo via Amnesia/Facebook)

Capella, unlike the other promoters we spoke to, said he understands the necessity of increased regulation—to an extent. "You can't have everyone doing everything. I understand closing a bit earlier, and being respectful," he said, adding that young students shouldn't have to dodge drunken tourists on the streets while on their way to school, and commuters shouldn't have to be late to work because of traffic jams caused by the flood of punters leaving the clubs in cabs. "The locals are getting nervous, like what the fuck is this," Capella said.

In other words, Capella isn't losing sleep over about how the new curfew will affect business next year; in fact, he suggested that this crackdown is just the latest kabuki dance that clubs and authorities routinely perform at the end of the season, when locals invariably complain about parties getting out of hand. "For the last 20 years, we've always had big fights [with the government]," he said. "We need to talk, have meetings, and in the end, we always arrive at a happy medium."

Still—just like tINI, Gerber, and Craig—Capella said he hopes Ibiza doesn't lose touch with what made the island so beloved to begin with. "Ibiza is following the globalization of the world," he said. "Like Miami and Vegas, all the big bosses and VIP people are coming to the island, and of course, it's changing the culture. If I have to tell you the truth, Ibiza is becoming like St. Tropez and Monaco—more Ferraris, more limos, more money. We have to try and put it back to what it was."

Michelle Lhooq is the Features Editor at THUMP who popped her Ibiza cherry this summer. Follow her on Twitter.