From his penthouse apartment in the back streets of Ibiza’s gypsy quarter, Sa Penya, Paradise Lost Ibiza owner James Harvey has a birds’ eye view of his locked-up, deserted drinking den – its terrace devoid of tables, no buzz of conversations late into the night and no vibrant pink glow coming from its instantly recognisable neon sign. At this time of year, the bar is usually full of locals, returning from their winter travels, plus pre-season travellers and those who love a good cocktail of course. Thanks to COVID-19, none of the above have been allowed to leave the house (or their countries, in the case of tourists!), let alone go to a bar.
One night before the lockdown came into effect (“Friday the 13th – the nightmare before lockdown,” quips James), Paradise Lost was celebrating its pre-season opening party. Although some may argue that drinking is ‘essential’ in these tough times, the bar was instructed to close when the Spanish state of alarm was announced. As Ibiza enters Phase One of the government’s planned de-escalation process this week, James – who hails from Edinburgh but has lived in Ibiza for 20 years – is busy wrapping his head around the complex rules and regulations associated with re-opening, but is looking forward to getting back behind his beloved bar. Here, he talks about swapping nightlife for day life – even if that day life had to be spent indoors.
Describe your current Ibiza lockdown situation?
I’m in my penthouse apartment – which we like to call ‘Paradise Heights’ because it’s right above the bar in the ghetto of the port, Sa Penya – with my better half BLONDEWEARINGBLACK. We have a really spacious and light place, but zero outdoor areas, which is tough in sunny lockdown! So to battle that we have been throwing every mattress, cushion, pillow and towel we can find onto our neighbour’s corrugated tiled roof, climbing out of a tall window and attempting to sunbathe at a bumpy 45-degree angle – dangerous but fun! All to the soundtrack of our resident DJs on our Paradise Lost Ibiza Soundcloud page!
Did you expect the Ibiza lockdown to be as lengthy and restrictive as it has been?
No, not really. I expected it to be this long but I didn’t expect to end up with no tourists and only 50% capacity… we’re still in the midst of it all really! As of yesterday Ibiza entered phase one of the de-escalation process, so we have been told we can finally open tonight but with some serious guidelines, of course. Inly our terrace can be in use and that’s at 50% capacity and all must remain seated with tables two metres apart. So NO ONE standing and NO ONE indoors except for the toilet, one at a time! This gives us a maximum of only 14 customers allowed at any one time – a huge difference to our usual 70 free-flowing guests. The hardest part has been asking people to make reservations – it’s just so unnatural to book one seat in a bar and at a set time, but we have reduced hours too now. From 17:00 to 23:00 and so have to rotate our guests, or we would upset others! We have wonderful island regulars thank god! But we heavily our praying for tourist season to return ASAP! In saying all of that, we are very lucky we have a terrace as some establishments don’t and cant open still!
What is your daily life like now?
We’re keeping positive with lots of quizzes, exercises, cooking and eating, plus the odd cocktail party for two (keeping my skills up to scratch!). But, I’ve also been busy working on tailoring our Paradise On Safari events packages for private events, weddings and boats when this lockdown finally lifts!
How are you feeling on a personal level right now?
Positive – using the time constructively to get the more boring side of the business in hand!
Who or what do you miss most right now?
The calas of Ibiza and Formentera.
What’s been most the challenging thing for you throughout this experience?
Coping with the uncertainty of not knowing whats happening with the actual laws, for example the fake news/real law debates.
Has there been anything about the lockdown experience you’ve enjoyed?
I haven’t missed the late nights and going out a lot. I’ve really enjoyed being healthy and getting up early.
Have you set yourself any goals during this period?
Yes – actually getting up in the morning! Exercising everyday. Getting our new events packages and merchandise ready to rock! We have a new collection coming out, featuring t-shirts, vests, hoodies, tote bags, stickers, badges, trucker caps, hoodie dresses and even face masks, hahah! We will be adding new fun items every week so stay tuned – snap it up here!
How do you keep in touch with the outside world?
I try to avoid the news; it’s conflicting and partisan.
What’s been entertaining you during this period?
In the house, we’re doing the daily Jimmy Carr quiz together and I am also doing a weekly family quiz on Face time with my mum and one sister in Edinburgh and my other sister in Mauritius – we’re dotted all over the world! We take turns each week as quiz master and whoever wins has to host the following week – much fun!
What’s been educating you?
The Guardian Geography quiz and various Rum based literature…
What’s made you laugh during this time?
Graham Sahara’s daily jokes on our Instagram stories and Only Fools and Horses re-runs thanks to our mate Pyro and Dropbox!
How is your general health and wellbeing?
It’s pretty good all round, although I’m missing a daily run, swim or walk.
What are your eating habits like these days?
More healthy for sure – compared to working six nights a week behind a bar, it’s not not that hard. I’ve cut out bread and we have started intermittent fasting too.
Are you factoring exercise and movement into your time spent indoors?
Yes, I’m doing HIIT everyday, and I’ve got a pull-up bar in the house. And now that we’re allowed to exercise outdoors for an hour a day, I’ll be going for a run and a swim every morning.
How has the lockdown impacted your business and industry?
Massively, as no one can go to a bar. I just hope everyone is reeealllly thirsty when they finally turn up when we open.
How do you manage stress during such uncertain times?
I just think of all those beaches out there with unspoilt with crystal blue water I can flop about in… when we’re allowed back on the beach!
How do you feel Ibiza has come together (while staying apart) as a community during lockdown?
What I’ve personally witnessed has been great – I’ve seen a lot of the winches with buckets being used from top floor apartments where the elderly reside near us so they can have help pulling up their groceries.
What are your hopes for Ibiza in the future?
Hopefully a bit of introspection might benefit the island, and people will see that less is more.
Do you have any fears for the future of the island?
No. Fear leads to the dark side…
What about your own future – how is that looking right now?
Our immediate future plans are to be open in time to celebrate our fourth birthday on May 20, which coincides with the release of Paradise Couch by Justin Harris & BLONDEWEARINGBLACK on Marshall Jefferson’s label ‘Freakin 909’. It’s the first song written about my bar and we’d love to also shoot the film clip in here, once the lockdown laws allow people to come inside.
We are also launching our new mobile bar operation called Paradise Lost on Safari! We had planned to do this anyway, but now we feel it will be needed more than ever with the lockdown laws, as it will be perfect for small intimate villa parties that want a sleek and clean bar service that leaves no trace after the party! We can tailor to most requirements but we are really all about offering something different to the standard beer and wine – our glassware, our suggested serves, our cocktails and other libations are brought in from all over the world – especially our rums of course! So we are definitelty for the more bespoke clientele!We also have amazing resident DJs to offer along with the unique cocktail serves, which parties will be crying out for if the clubs don’t open this year!
Do you feel safe here? Is there anywhere else you’d rather be quarantined than Ibiza?
Perfectly safe – can’t wait to get out and high five everyone.
What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
Opening the bar, and having a shot with everyone – well everyone that has booked a table that is! Haha! For the time being, we are asking everyone to book via our Facebook page until we are back to full capacity and partytime hours!
Is there anything you might miss?
The Jimmy Carr quiz, and getting up fresh and early.
Any other reflections or lessons you’d like to share?
Maybe just how little we can get by on. Appreciate the small things and each other, as well as your health.