Pandemic spoils party for Ibiza's legendary nightlife

Ibiza Town, Spain—Without its thousands of party-goers, the Hi Ibiza mega club is just a large, silent, empty hangar, as the Spanish island's iconic nightclubs remain shut due to the pandemic.

Pandemic spoils party for Ibiza's legendary nightlife
People gather at a terrace bar at the port of Ibiza on July 31, 2020. There is no second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Spain despite a fresh surge in infections in the country, a top health ministry official said. The pandemic has dealt a major blow to Spain's key tourism sector, which accounts for about 12 percent of its economy. AFP
To curb the spread of coronavirus cases, the regional government of the Balearic Islands has only allowed clubs with a capacity of 300 or less to open—and only for drinking.  There can be no dance floor and revelers must remain seated.

As a result the island's famous mega clubs, which draw big name international DJs and have made the Mediterranean island a global clubbing capital, will stay closed this season.

Even without the restrictions, nightclub operators say the social distancing needed to prevent infections would make it impossible to stage the wild parties they are famous for.

"When we shout, saliva can go as far as two meters. Who can keep distances inside a nightclub?" said Jose Luis Benitez, the head of the  Ibiza  Leisure Association, which represents the nightlife sector in  Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands.

Before the regulations were announced, club owners had floated a variety of measures to deal with the pandemic. On Majorca, the largest island in the archipelago, an association of nightlife venues had planned to mark spots on the floor that people should stick to when dancing, Benitez said.

"But what do you do if you are interested in meeting someone?" he added.

Reputation risk

The impact of the club closures will be huge since  Ibiza's nightlife sector accounts for "over 35 percent" of its economic output according to Benitez.

Club owners have resigned themselves to the loss of the season since they do not want to take chances and risk being blamed for any outbreak.

"I have to be responsible," said Yann Pissenem, a French co-owner of Hi Ibiza, one of the largest clubs on the island which is also famous for its scores of cove beaches.

If clubs opened, they risked "creating clusters everywhere" which would "destroy the rest" of the island's economy, he added.

And if there are a lot of outbreaks "Ibiza's brand would be tainted next year," added Benitez.

The lack of nightlife can be felt across the island, which reopened its doors to foreign tourists along with the rest of Spain in June.

On its beaches traveling vendors hawking nightclub entries have given way to those selling ice cream and drinks, while along roads old billboards promote nightclub parties featuring world famous DJs held before the pandemic.

In the picturesque port of  Ibiza Town, only the souvenir shop of the mythical Pacha nightclub is open.

'Bit sad'

"It's our first time in  Ibiza  and we thought parties would still be held, even though the virus is still present here, so we're a bit sad," said Mirkan Unvar, 19, who came to the island with a friend from Frankfurt.

For Adam Clark-Bennet, a 23-year-old Briton who has come to the island for the last six years, "music is a huge element of what  Ibiza  is."

"Without the clubs, it changes what  Ibiza  is like this summer... a big part is missing for me," he added.

Lucas Herve, who came from the French city of Nantes with a friend, said he thought people would stay out in the streets even if clubs are closed but "at 2 a.m. there is nobody."

Some revelers drive around with the windows of their cars open, blasting house or techno music at full volume.

After this lost season,  Ibiza  nightclub operators hope to soon be able to operate normally, without special health measures.

"Gel, protective screens, temperature checks at the door.... I don't want to think about that because I have great faith that a vaccine will be found," said Pissenem.

Topics: Hi Ibiza mega club , coronavirus cases , Jose Luis Benitez , Yann Pissenem
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