'People who come here think they are better than us' - Magaluf is finding it tough to shed notorious reputation
New laws aim to curb the drunkenness, fighting and nudity that blight the teen resort, writes Joe Duggan in Magaluf
It's 11pm, and Europe's most notorious party zone is grinding into action. On The Strip in Magaluf, scantily clad girls at the City Lights bar gyrate on raised platforms while Irish and British youngsters sink cheap shots and cocktails.
Over the years, this Majorca resort has become a byword for bad behaviour. Its heady brew of sex, drink and violence is manna from heaven for tabloid headline writers, with a daily onslaught of stories proclaiming the worst excesses of northern European youth.
Most of the youngsters here are well-behaved, many enjoying their first overseas holiday away from the constraints of family and enjoying the cut-price booze. Two Sex On The Beach cocktails cost as little as €4.50. Two pints are just €3.
But despite the best intentions of Majorcans and the local business community, Magaluf is finding it hard to shed its notorious reputation.
"A few lads we know have got a hiding over here," said Sean (19), from Co Waterford, who is here for a week with a group of half a dozen friends.
"One lad went out on his own the other night and 15 English lads attacked him. He got battered with a baseball bat and had to have 12 stitches. He went to the hospital, but was back out again the next night."
It's a graphic example of the dangers that can befall unsuspecting youngsters in 'Shagaluf', Spain's infamous neon-illuminated party zone. Just last week, two British youngsters were filmed brutally battering a compatriot at an apartment block in Punta Ballena, setting about him in a sustained, sickening assault that was captured on CCTV.
One of the culprits was filmed stabbing the victim with a broken bottle before the duo pummelled him to a pulp.
The following day, a 19-year-old was left fighting for his life after falling from a third-floor flat, sustaining a broken leg and life-threatening injuries. Last Wednesday, an 18-year-old British woman reported an alleged sexual assault to Spanish police as Magaluf's grim roll call lengthened yet further.
The annual ritual of debauchery has spurred locals into action. In June, an updated list of 64 regulations outlawing bad behaviour were issued by Calvia council, the local authority charged with upholding law and order.
The list of misdemeanours are split into three categories. 'Minor' offences, such as climbing a tree or shining a laser, are charged at between €100 and €599. 'Serious crimes', such as defecating in the street, will see miscreants charged from €600 to €1,499, Bar owners serving underage drinkers face a penalty of between €1,500 and €3,000.
According to figures supplied by Calvia town hall, the first 15 days of June saw 25 complaints to the police over outdoor nudity, with one group of 18 drunken British tourists fined last month after jumping in the sea naked.
But despite this new clampdown, many locals are yet to discern a meaningful change.
"People have had enough of this bad behaviour," said a spokesman for the local business body, Acotur. "There are important people here that are working hard to change the image of the area. Thirty or so years ago, this kind of thing didn't happen. Tour operators like Thomas Cook showed people what to do, where to go and what not to do. That doesn't happen now.
"People here didn't expect it to be as bad this year as last year. We have to change attitudes, and tell people, 'You can't come here and do whatever you want'."
This week, a high-profile meeting is planned between Majorca council and government officials and the local business and hotelier community to discuss the dilemma of badly behaved young holidaymakers, a small percentage of whom are managing to tarnish the island's reputation.
But, despite the local outrage, Magaluf's illicit thrills continue to draw people looking for a good time, with many young Irish choosing to base themselves in nearby Santa Ponsa before heading into Magaluf for a night out.
"I got kicked out of my hotel the other day," said 19-year-old Ray, from the Midlands, as he slurped on a Sex On The Beach cocktail at Lennon's bar.
"I had to pay another €500 to get somewhere else."
Similar examples of youthful excess can be found in towns and cities all over the British Isles every night of the week. But weary Magaluf bar and restaurant owners, many of them long established, have grown tired of the endless round of negative stories emanating from their area.
"If you want to look for bad press, you can find it anywhere," said Jason Brown, who runs thriving beachside cafe Tom Brown's. "I got attacked in London with a knife. They are trying to change the rules here, but things can't change overnight," he added.
Brown said there were "buckets of blood" on the street following last week's incident when a young man tumbled to the pavement. The phenomenon of 'balconing', whereby daredevil youngsters try to leap from terrace to terrace, has claimed victims here.
"They tried to raise the heights of the balconies to stop people doing that a few years ago," said Brown. "They do need to clean up The Strip."
Many locals have long grown tired of their area being dragged through the mud.
"People who come here think they are better than us," said supermarket worker Isabel Perez (47). How would you feel if I came to your city and behaved like this? It makes people very angry."
While our British brethren may attract the lion's share of the bad headlines, Irish youngsters have found themselves on the wrong side of the local press, too.
Last week, local media outlet Cronica Balear posted a video purportedly showing dozens of Irish youngsters dancing in the street at 6.30am. Many of them were pogo-ing on top of a car, destroying it in the process.
It is a minority of fools spoiling it for the rest. The majority are guilty of nothing more than having a good time and - more than - a few drinks. "I love all the people here," said Jack, from Co Donegal, who was sunburnt after spending the day on a booze-cruise boat that offered unlimited drink for €55.
"It's amazing for us to see different people from all over."