As tough new laws came into force at midnight on Tuesday, there was an eerie feeling about the infamous West End of San Antonio. Ominous sounds of thunder and flashes of lightening sparked in the heavy Balearic air as storm clouds gathered overhead. Bar and Club owners were worried, some more than others, as the local Government delivered on their pledge to clean up the West End. Strict orders were issued to remove all outside terraces at midnight and while there was a visible local police force present, they seemed to be there more in a surveillance capacity than an enforcing one. For this is the West End, a den of pirates and rouges, predators stalking their naive tourist prey.
The local police watched as the usual suspects failed to comply with the new laws leaving their terraces out in full view. Their interest seemed to be concentrated on the main drag of the West End, Carrer de Santa Agnes, the bastard offspring of the 18-30 package tourist model that was greedily exploited by UK travel companies in the 90’s and spawned the infamous Ibiza Uncovered TV series responsible for the negative perception that the World has of Ibiza today. The original night life of the West End existed on one street, Calle Colon, which was an international street of small sized bars owned by people from the world, Spanish, British, Scandinavian, Irish, Dutch and German. It was not seedy, it was bohemian vibrant and fun, a place where people like Pepe Rosello and Javier Anadon first cut their teeth.
When the package tour operators arrived in the 80’s with their large groups of “Bar Crawlers” led by their jolly Pied Piper holiday rep into The West End, the smaller bars on Calle Collon could not accommodate the size of their groups. Larger bars then started to open on the adjacent Carrer de Santa Agnes designed specifically to cater to the package tourist model. While Calle Colon retained its local authenticity, the new street became a reflection of a foreign culture not indigenous to the island. This was the genesis of the nasty social issues that now haunts the area.
What is important to remember, is that there is a local community in the West End, that live and socialise there and many of them rely on the tourist trade for their jobs. It is important that while tackling the problem that the baby is not thrown out with the dirty bathwater and that local culture is protected. From what I saw happening in the West End last night, it seems the San An government is aware of this fact and is trying to readdress the balance between local bars and the crass tourist traps with their cheap alcohol deals and seedy PR personnel.
Its not going to be an easy job, but from talking to a few business owners in the area last night, they are hopeful that this clever new drive to clean up the West End will work. There is a Q of savvy investors waiting their chance to transform Carrer de Santa Agnes into a fresh new tourist model that respects local laws. If the present owners feel their time is up, and it most certainly is, then property on the strip could transfer to new owners with a modern vision for Carrer de Santa Agnes. Or maybe, in the words of William Butler Yeats, a terrible beauty is born.