Nightclub Hall of Fame Ricardo Urgell

Ricardo Urgell

Back in 1967, Ricardo Urgell was a young passionate entrepreneur, opening a discotheque named Pacha in a small town of Sitges, Catalonia. The company was growing with enormous speed, with inauguration of second club in Lloret de Mar town of Catalonia in 1970, followed by the opening of its third venue in the central port of Ibiza Island in year 1973.Now, after 45 years in the business, he has received a gold medal from the Tourism Minister for successfully expanding his brand in Spain and worldwide. As a matter of fact, Pacha has become an international nightclub franchise with venues and shops in four continents of the globe, including cities as Rio de Janeiro, New York and upcoming launch in Sydney, Australia.

We meet up with Ricardo, now 75, in his headquarters of Pacha Ibiza to chat about the times when there were shepherds and fishermen outside his window instead of Lamborghinis and speed yachts.

How did you come up with the idea of using cherries as your logo?
It all happened by chance! Back in the day my lawyer was assisting me with launch of several new companies, and he was calling me saying “Hey, we have all the papers prepared. We are just missing the name of the company. What name should we use?” As I was really buried in work I said “Well, just put a name of a fruit like an apple, a pear, a cherry, anything!” So, he named the companies that we launched as Manzana(transl. apple), and Cereza (transl. cherry), and that is how it all started. Later, after putting it as a logo for the Pacha club, everybody fell in love with our cherries, and today it has become one of the most famous brand logos in the world!

And what is the story behind the word Pacha?
Pacha was an ancient figure, a Turkish governor who used to live with many women. He was a big man of great wealth and love for women. There is an aphorism “You live like a Pacha!” that means – you live really well! That’s how the idea was born for the name of the club.

What is the current project you are working on right now?
Right now I am working together with several architects on the expansion of Pacha nightclub here in Ibiza. On one hand, making a bigger Pacha was not my goal, as it makes it even more popular, but as DJs are charging a lot these days, expanding for bigger capacity is the only way to afford them. I am also busy working on a project for opening of a new hotel next year that will be called Destino.

You have seen the changes in the clubbing scene since the 60s. What do you think of the new generation?
The new generation is totally immersed in consumerism, and young people are working really hard to be able to afford those things they want to consume. That has totally changed the way people party and have fun. Before people had fun with very little – now they demand everything big and huge. The youth keep defining good entertainment with enormous events, as if the size of it is a guarantee for a good party.

And you bring it to them big and huge.
That is what they demand. Just take a look at these three 100 watt sound amplifiers I have here. In total, 300 watt power of sound was what we used for the first Pacha. Now, we have 80 000 watt power of sound in the club and, you know what, people had danced like crazy with those 300 watts! It is not about the sound system but about putting personal initiative, creativity and most importantly, your heart into it, I always remind.

So you blame it on consumerism?
Not only, it’s a badly created new world that lacks the right type of education on issues of heart and how to have a good time with other people.

Still, you prefer working in this industry.
There is beauty to it, because I have always thought that the night has more truth to it than the day. What I mean is that the nightlife gives people the feeling of acceptance and freedom. People don’t have to hide who they are, or vice versa, they can create that unique character who they want to be! You might meet a serious doctor in his office during the day but at night he is out drunk, maybe even dressed as a woman! There is nothing more beautiful than the contrast between the day and the night.

How was this summer season 2012 for Pacha group?
This was a fantastic season, especially for Lio which we opened last year. With Lio we have started to offer a new type of entertainment in Ibiza, attracting more adult public who prefer classic entertainment as cabaret, live performances and Broadway musicals.

What would you say the most difficult part of your job is?
I have 800 people working in this company and the most difficult part is organizing and coordinating the people. Moreover, we have the day-time staff and the night-time staff who lead very different schedules and lifestyles so making everyone happy is a challenge.

Who do you think will lead the company after you go?
I have two sons but they are not very interested in the nightlife business, more in fashion and merchandising. My daughter however works with me. I am not too worried about the future of the company, it’s secure. I am more worried about the ways the new generation connect with each other in order to have fun.

When you opened the first Pacha here back in 1973, it was an absolutely different hippy Ibiza, and your discotheque was so much smaller.
Actually, when I opened the first Pacha, the term discotheque didn’t exist and they were called boite (meaning box when translated from French). Word discotheque and its definition appeared only in 70s and I fell in love with it and started using it.

It seems that today we live in an absurd society where people prefer to have fun in a huge crowd, although that is not the most enjoyable manner to dance or move around. When the hall is crammed, they are very happy, and when there are less people, they are frustrated, which seems incomprehensible for me.

Also it seems to me that young people in clubs don’t really dance anymore! Many times I watch the crowd during the night and it is really peculiar. It seems that people only move hands up when it’s the culmination of the DJs beats. The most ridiculous part is when there is no space for them to put the hands down as the room is so full! Still, this is the new generation, and this is how they are having a great time! (