Pacha chief executive hopes Mediterranean glamour will draw a new kind of customer, Graham Keeley reports

Pacha Group, famous for its nightclub in Ibiza, has faced some challenges since it changed hands two years ago
Pacha Group, famous for its nightclub in Ibiza, has faced some challenges since it changed hands two years agoSTEVE BLACK/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

It transformed a hippy paradise into the go-to place for the hip generation and heralded the dawn of the superclub.

Now Nick McCabe, 42, the new British chief executive of Pacha Group, wants to recapture the original magic of the Ibiza nightclub, which he believes has waned.

He has begun by exporting some of the charms of the White Isle to the very different surroundings of London in winter. Lío, a restaurant that its creators promise will offer not just a meal but an unforgettable night out, opened last week in Bloomsbury. Mr McCabe hopes that Londoners will be drawn by the promise of Mediterranean glamour.

The pop-up restaurant, which is open for a six-week trial, will feature different shows every night. Performers will mix with customers before the real entertainment begins. But dining out does not come cheap and the bill will run “into the hundreds”.

Lío, which in Spanish can mean having an affair, is a version of the established “cabaret restaurant” run by Pacha Group in Ibiza. The London venture is part of Mr McCabe’s vision for what Pacha can offer in an age in which, he believes, unforgettable experiences are valued more than something which can be bought.

“When you understand [how] the world is changing and that people value experiences over possessions, it is about generating social capital, about a great Instagram photo. I think the world has changed in our favour,” he told The Times.

Before moving to Spain the father of four was chief executive and president of Hakkasan, the global restaurant and nightlife group, based in Las Vegas.

He began going to clubs when Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold were dominating the dance culture in the 1990s, and moved to Miami to start websites about what was at the time an underground dance scene in the US. Eventually the company he started was taken over and he later moved to Hakkasan.

For a Geordie and a self-confessed clubbing addict like Mr McCabe, the chance of taking charge of a brand such as Pacha was like being asked to play for his football team, Newcastle United. “It was the job in a niche industry like mine, there is no other better,” he said.

Pacha was founded in 1967 in a club in Sitges, near Barcelona, by Ricardo Urgell and later moved to Ibiza. It grew into a global brand and was taken over by Trilantic Capital Partners, a Spanish venture capital group, in 2017. Mr Urgell maintains a presence in the business but, now in his eighties, has taken a backseat from the day-to-day running of the empire.

The group consists of clubs, hotels, restaurants, a record company and accessories and has a presence in 16 countries including Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Austria, and China. Turnover last year was €100 million but the company did not disclose figures for profits. Pacha Group employs 2,200 people.

It was Mr Urgell’s wife who named the club when she told her husband: “If you pull this off, you will be a pacha” — like royalty.

Mr McCabe wants to recapture something of the club that the people of Ibiza always felt they owned. “There absolutely is an intent to recapture some of the brand essence. It is not unfair to say that over the past couple of years there has been some challenges over how the brand has been managed,” he said.

“When you transfer from family-owned business to a corporately owned business there are going to be problems. In our world, the smallest of actions can have the huge impact. Ensuring that you don’t think about a venue economically; you think about the profile of the person you want to allow into the venue.

“You can lose sight of what made it magic in the first place. I think the brand has taken a bit of a hit. It is not an insurmountable challenge, but I think that has to come back.”

Famous for attracting celebrities such as Jade Jagger and Kate Moss, Pacha cannot only be about well-heeled clubbers, Mr McCabe said. “It is also about energetic good-looking people who may have saved all year to get there, not just ‘high net individuals’, or it is boring.”

He envisages openings for the company in Miami, New York, California and Las Vegas and in Mediterranean resorts such as Mykonos, Sardinia, Marbella, Monaco and St Tropez.

One place that will not be seeing a new Pacha club soon is Mr McCabe’s native Newcastle upon Tyne. “When I go to Newcastle I go to switch off, so I am going to be selfish on this one,” he said with a laugh.