Ushuaia; Enough velvet rope to hang itself
Andy Jones reports on his less-than-savoury experience dealing with the staff at Ushuaia.
If Ibiza is the place where beautiful people go to party, Ushuaia bills itself as the most beautiful place of all.
On reputation its an ice cool pool-side hang out with impossibly gorgeous dancers and a 'don't-try-too-hard' air, populated by muscly hunks in shorts and divas in designer heels. For Saturdays immensely popular Pooldisco night – it’s all over Twitter and Facebook - a giant stage boomed out upbeat house and served as the pulpit around which the rich could get their groove on. Whether it was cocktail sipping or celeb spotting - recent European Cup winner Cesc Fabregas was down for a table the night we were there - punters are prepared to splash out for a showbiz centrepiece for their Ibiza party break. Whether you are on the 'list' of the pouting door staff or just a punter wanting to spend your hard-earned, the idea of Ushuaia is everyone gets a flavour of the VIP experience. Only the staff didn't get the memo.
Simply put, Ushuaia has created enough velvet rope to hang itself. In our two hours at Ushuaia we managed to be prevented from getting in, then - once inside - we were frogmarched out. Finally - when we'd had enough rough treatment - we were prevented from leaving. That's some hat trick!
I wasn't part of a group of lairy lads on tour, I was with my girlfriend. We just wanted to have some cocktails, have a dance and see what all the hype was about. Also, as we were staying at Ushuaia's beautiful sister hotel Sa Talaia we had guest wristbands already, plus a table booked.
When we arrived, no-one understood this arrangement and we kept being directed out to the street. Once our hotel manager had smoothed things over we were let in, without any apology.
It was just after 8pm - admittedly super early for Ibiza clubbing - but as Pooldisco finishes at midnight I thought we'd walk into the first throes of a buzzing party. I’d heard from friends it is one of the best nights on the island. It would be harsh to call it 'dead,' but our party patient barely had a pulse.
One eighth of the space - the part closest to the DJ - had forty or so clubbers trying to get the party started, sashaying to smooth Balearic beats.
The rest of the space including the giant pool was a deserted expanse of red tape and 'exclusive' sun loungers. Work-a-day punters penned into one small space, the VIP area sprawling outwards around the pool. Only, by 8.30pm, it was nearly empty. From beneath the sun shades you might see an occasional tanned leg poking out, but really it looked like row upon row of empty tables and loungers. The VIP area, normally the epicentre of an upmarket club, looked like someone had forgot to send out the invites.
Lying cat-like on islands in the centre of the pool, dancers in Lady Gaga inspired hooded swimsuits pulled vogueish moves without any enthusiasm. After all, no-one was present to watch them.
Okay, we thought, the party hasn't got lift off yet. We decided to head out the back of the club and enjoy the beach side bar instead. One hour and one 200 euro dinner later - two courses of some of the best food we've had on the island - we headed back in.
It was still quiet - though the dancers had at least been roused enough to stand up now - we shuffled in through the way we came in. Bad move. Two security staff immediately tried to push us back out - we showed our wristbands, they showed us the door - grabbing my girlfriend by the elbow and marching us out. We had wristbands, drink receipts and an Ushuaia restaurant receipt and we were treated like interlopers. To add to our embarrassment quite a crowd saw this - after all, aside from bored dancers there was little else in the way of entertainment - and so we felt as though we'd been caught robbing hand bags.
We should've written it off and gone elsewhere, but I'd heard great things about Ushuaia – whether that’s Pooldisco, David Guetta’s night or Lucianos - and was keen not to fly home disappointed.
Inside - once again - we tried to find the table we'd booked. Only, all the tables are ringfenced behind the velvet rope. If you aren't VIP the only place to sit is the floor - perhaps explaining why everyone was stood milling around the dancefloor not dancing.
Oh and you’ll still stand even if you have a table. Gaggles of staff with clipboards fussed way out of earshot of actual punters trying to get their attention. The whole ethos of the club is played down cool - that is, don't try too hard - only the place doesn't try hard enough at mastering the basics of the VIP experience - politeness and a bit of attention.
Still without a table and the party just taking off by 9.30pm - we thought it a good time to ring our mates and see their plans. We wanted to go outside to make a phone call. Not allowed, say the staff and usher us back into the half empty club. Three different exits and always the same answer. 'Okay then, we'll leave,' I say defeated. Apparently that's also not allowed. A further row later and only the intervention of my girlfriend crying and they moved out the way.
Ushuaia, the one club in the world which hates to let you leave as much as it hates to let you in.
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