Ibiza Rocks: Sun, sea and… social distancing? How the party is getting restarted | Ents & Arts News
Ibiza’s summer season for 2020 is all about sun, sea, and staying more than 1.5 metres away from strangers.
Despite lockdown measures across Spain easing, clubs on the White Isle remain closed on government orders, and have reportedly been told they won’t be able to open again until next year.
However, there is one venue that will soon be getting the party started.
Ibiza Rocks, which launched in 2005 to bring live bands to the most famous club scene in the world, is set to be back up and running from 1 July as coronavirus restrictions ease.
In any other year, there would be thousands of mainly 20-somethings squeezed into its pool and dance floor; can they really bring an event like this back while adhering to restrictions, without the atmosphere being somewhat diminished?
Ibiza Rocks chief executive and founder Andy McKay says he is confident they can do it well, reducing the capacity from 2,500-plus to a maximum of 700 people.
“Within the centre of the Ibiza Rocks Hotel is a venue which was a day club and a giant dance floor, but there was also a table and beds area around the periphery,” he says. “The beds and tables can still operate.
“We’ve extended the big round day beds on to the dance floor. So no giant dance floor anymore; people can dance between their beds but there isn’t a dance floor in the same way.
“A friendship group of say eight people can be on a day bed and get the energy that the other 700 or so people provide while remaining socially distanced.”
While there’s no dance floor the pool will be open, although they are awaiting confirmation from authorities on the restrictions that will need to be in place.
The venue is open-air, which makes social distancing a lot easier than for Ibiza’s famous clubs, and means it is considered one of the safest places to party on the island.
Customer-facing staff will be wearing protective equipment and all staff will have temperature checks before shifts. Safety screens are being installed at key interaction points across the hotel and venue to keep physical distance between staff and customers, and hand sanitisers and safety bins will also be available.
All this – and the small matter of not snogging strangers – might not sound like a recipe for a wild week or two of sunshine partying.
Mr McKay acknowledges visitors won’t be getting the same Ibiza Rocks experience as previous years, but is certain they won’t be disappointed.
“The indoor [market] is going to be slower to recover… it’s hard to imagine packed dance floors coming back anytime soon because it seems very difficult to validate something like people packed on a dance floor with social distancing,” he says. “It’s just not really compatible.
“I certainly have no illusions that Ibiza this year is going to be about packed dance floors indoors or outdoors, to be honest. But it’s a change. [The virus] is going to be with us for a year, maybe more.
“I’m quite excited because comparatively, we’re in a much better place than many others.”
And with holidaymakers having been cooped up at home for months, the mood will no doubt be euphoric despite the distance.
“We had very large areas of day beds last year and the energy was superb in them, but obviously they benefited from the energy of the dance floor so I know it’s going to be somewhat different,” he says.
“But I think the energy levels of our young customers will be possibly a little bit higher than they normally are after spending three months at home.
“I’m sure for our audience, they’re going to have a great time in Ibiza this year. But they shouldn’t come expecting what they got in last year in Ibiza because it simply won’t be the same product.”
The effects of the pandemic seemed “pretty much cataclysmic” for the company when they first had to think about closing and cancelling events, Mr McKay says.
“I’m delighted that Spain is accepting British tourists from 21 June, which is beyond our wildest expectations of a few weeks ago.”
Stars including Craig David and Rudimental had been booked for this year; the plan is to reorganise for some to play later in the summer, but there’s nothing confirmed yet.
“We are hoping that some level of the programme can be returned. We haven’t given up hope. I’m confident we can do more and more with talent as the season progresses.”
During preparations for reopening, Ibiza Rocks conducted a survey of its customers to find out about opinions on overseas travel in the current climate.
Of the results from 5,025 respondents aged 18-30 living in the UK & Ireland, more than three quarters (78%) said they would be comfortable travelling to Ibiza this year and three quarters again said they would feel safe in an open-air venue (compared with 42% for nightclubs).
“Our customers are conscious of the risks, they are safety conscious,” Mr McKay says. “And what we’re providing them is a space where they can hang out with their friends without the obligation to be bombarded with other strangers, physically, that could present risk to them and others.”
But what happens when people have had a few drinks?
“That was the overriding concern [of customers],” says Mr McKay. “They were very happy with the safety conditions, they felt safe. Their biggest single concern was the behaviour of other customers, particularly when they’ve had a drink.
“So, yes… absolutely, we have to be concerned about that. All I would say is the walled garden that is the Ibiza Rocks Hotel: we want 700 people, only 700 people get in. We have the contact details of every lead customer on every day bed. And we have toilet provisions for three times the volume of people.
“It’s a risk, but it’s a more controlled risk than just going to a bar on the street, I believe.”
Is Mr McKay worried about a second spike in the virus?
“Nobody can deny that the trend with the virus in Europe is very, very positive, in that cases are going down dramatically.
“Yes, of course, I’m concerned if there is another spike in the virus, but I’m also very optimistic that in the short-term, there probably won’t be. If there is, that is a great concern.
“And, you know, my problems as a single hotelier with day beds for 700 people – yes, it would be devastating, but I think the problems are much bigger than that if [another spike happens].
“We’ve got the measures to be safer than the market. And I think that’s the best we can do, is be the most responsible we can.”
As with the thousands of other businesses that are tentatively reopening, it is about balancing the risks of the virus with the risks of the damage to livelihoods – and also the effects of a global crisis and lockdown on people’s mental health.
This is an issue many young people who responded to the survey mentioned, Mr McKay says.
“About 10% of [the 18 to 21 bracket] mentioned mental health, without us asking them about it. I think we’re really underestimating the effects [of the pandemic]. The younger you are, the more physical contact and social groups you have.”
So far, he says, the Ibiza Rocks Hotel is already at about 50% occupancy for the summer.
“It is actually very good. But we’re noticing there’s a lot of people waiting for that little bit more permission.
“I think that… very first flight – when that touches the ground and people physically see British customers getting off the plane in Ibiza, I think that will give people a lot of confidence to start booking in even bigger numbers.”