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JUAN ARNAU JR. aka JUANITO

I meet up with Juan Arnau, Jr. (Fraga, 1982), Juanito to his friends, in Teresa Carles one Friday lunchtime. It is nearing the end of September, meaning that the intense summer period in terms of festivals and nightlife is now drawing to an end, giving way to the new Autumn/Winter period of 2013/2014, a period which, as a general rule, is more chilled out.

For the great majority of promoters and business people in the nightlife sector, we should be looking forward to a period in which, after a long and intense summer, we finally get that well-deserved rest and find time to reflect on the high season, as well as starting to make plans for the coming year. But this is not the case for Juanito. At Enter Group, the leading company in the industry managed by Juanito alongside his father, Juan Arnau Duran, and over 225 employees, they’ve been working flat out over recent months, not only to meet their summer obligations all over Spain (Fraga, Desierto de los Monegros, Castelldefells, Ibiza, Poble Español in Barcelona…) and with their new incursions into Europe (France, Italy, United Kingdom…), but also because they are about to open KER, a new nightclub decorated in 70s and 80s disco-style, with a selection of electronic house and techno music leaning clearly towards the softer and funkier strains, and with a mix of resident DJs and leading international players that promises to be the new night-time hit across Barcelona. He arrives on time for our appointment with his girlfriend Romina…

Tell me a bit about KER, Juanito…

Ker came about with the idea of satisfying an unmet need in the current nightlife scene of discos and clubs in Barcelona. We are targeting a demanding audience of young people over 25, with average to medium-high spending power. And what we are proposing to win them over is a Club that is elegant, colourful, comfortable, with surprising vintage interior design, and with a quality programme that will alternate between leading international players of the funkiest and smoothest tech house on the one hand, and young collectives or up-and-coming resident DJs on the other hand.

Where can we find these kinds of young people in Barcelona right now?

In a wide variety of places which are totally different from each other: Apolo, Be Cool, Bling Bling, Sutton, Ocaña, CDLC, Opium Mar…

And what has KER got to offer that is different from the rest?

In terms of the place itself, we have created a unique space in Barcelona. My father, Juan Arnau Durán, has worked shoulder to shoulder with Marino Casas and with the whole team from the Interior Design company Pure Sang to create a 1970s nightclub style as if it had been created by Javier Regás himself. We have been inspired by the legacy of this genius of the world of interior design (Boccacio, Madox, Flash Flash, Florida…), not only for the aesthetic dimension, but also in order to define that club essence that goes beyond a mere space for night-time entertainment and becomes a meeting-point with a marked socio-cultural character of its own. This is why we want to reinforce the physical space by developing an online community. We are negotiating with a good number of bars-pubs, restaurants and fashion shops across Barcelona to encourage them to work with the club by offering joint value propositions for our future customers. And finally, in terms of programming, we fit within the space found between high-end clubs where people tend to eclipse the music/DJ, and the more underground kind of dance club where sometimes the music/DJ ends up overshadowing the people…

Interesting proposals and an interesting final reflection… How many people can the club hold and when will it be opened?

KER will have a capacity of approximately 1,200 people in the main part and around 250 in the cocktail bar. It will open on 11 October with Art Department and My Favourite Robot.

Nice choice, I’m a particular fan of Mr. Jonny White and his epic Without You

It’s a perfect duet for opening night. Their raw tech house based synthesizers and innovative vocals, at really low bpms, goes down very well with the public. Women love them because they’re cool and nice guys, and their sessions tend to be really enjoyable, creating a really good atmosphere.  And did you know they live in Barcelona as well?

Well, if I’m honest, our mutual friend Paco Osuna mentioned that to me the other day… How does Enter Group see this new challenge?

Really enthusiastically, but also remaining completely modest. The nightlife scene in Barcelona is in no way an easy business, and the competition is high with some really good things going on. But we’ve got plenty of experience in the industry and we know what we’ve got here…

I’ve no doubt whatsoever… Tell me a bit about where you’re from, about your family…

My grandfather founded Florida in 1942…

That’s over 70 years ago now…

It certainly is. My family’s always been involved in the nightlife business since way before I was born, and I can assure you that we’ve seen everything. We’ve seen good times and of course we’ve also seen not so good times. But if I had to sum up what the essence of the Enter Group and the Arnau family is in the business world in a few words, I’d say: passion for what we do, perseverance, patience and, above all, creativity and innovation… Why copy when you can create?

I’m absolutely certain you’ve been pioneers many times, in different clubs and in changing circumstances. What do you consider to be your failures and what have you learnt from them?

When Florida was a leading venue for concerts and celebrations, my father decided to invest in the figure of the DJ. This was obviously hard at first, but in just under a year Florida was already a must-stop place on the Valencia based clubbing scene. After the Valencian era, and after a long trip around Europe with my mother, he decided to go with the cutting-edge of Europe, bringing young talents such as Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin, Carl Cox, Laurent Garnier, and so on, to a little town with barely 15,000 inhabitants. And at first this was a disaster. Some time after came the boom of electronic music and we were then able to make Florida 135 the Spanish epicentre of this musical genre. After that, we made a big investment in the Internet and maybe we were a little too early on that scene as well. And then ElRow on C/ Rosselló in Barcelona. Not to mention ElRow Castelldefels, if we compare what it i has become with the struggles we had in the early days…

He who dares, wins, don’t they say?

The biggest risk of all is to do nothing. Many companies all over the world remain dormant as a result of stagnation and passivity. All business people must travel and keep their eyes open constantly in order to analyse the tendencies around them and, above all, to be able to keep one step ahead of them. This idea is so deeply embedded in my family that I’d even go as far as to say that it’s intrinsic to our way of thinking and something we do unconsciously.

And it’s because of this that, much to the astonishment and perplexity of many, you’ve now taken the decision to close Elrow Castelldefels, just when it was enjoying its moment of glory at a national and international level, and one of the top clubs in the country’s underground scene…

In order for a club to function well, and leaving aside the more general variables of operating management, you need to be very clear about two key aspects: one, support from the management and the neighbourhood, and two, you need to invest an awful lot in the nightlife. As my grandfather used to say: “If you don’t give the night what it needs, the night won’t give anything back to you”. At ElRow Castelldefels, there are some business tensions right now in relation to these two key aspects, which is why we’ve decided to close the current venue…

Are we seeing The End, or, as the strapline of your closing advertising campaign goes, The Show Must Go On?

The Show Must Go On… and will Carry and Carry On… (laughing)… We’ve got RowTown in Poble Español, Barcelona, the elRow On the Road events at key cities and European festivals, elRow Ibiza 2014, with many surprises and new initiatives (more and better), etc…. It’s very difficult to stop something when it’s doing so well, but sometimes a timely withdrawal is a victory in the end. When you see that you can’t improve on something and that external circumstances prevent you from giving your customers the best, you’ve got to consider these kinds of decisions…

Tell that to Guardiola when he left Barcelona FC…

Exactly! Life is a long road with different twists and turns. We’ll see what lies ahead for us in the future…

Talking of the future, how do you see things going at Teresa Carles?

Don’t tell me you’re going to close it as well… (laughing)…

Of course not! Where would you go to eat so well and healthily if we did that!

The truth is that you really would really be leaving us in the lurch… I can see that you do things with the same passion and commitment as us. And you’ve got experience and are fully aware of what you’ve got. It’s obvious that you also try to be innovative and are committed to a future for the restaurant business in which the pleasures of food and drink are closely linked to healthy eating and living. I can see a prosperous future ahead, I don’t know in which direction it will go or when it will happen, but I believe and hope that things will continue to move on…

How did you first find out about the Restaurant?

Through my friends Paco Osuna and Xavier Sala, that I have in mind that are also very good friends of the place… I had never been particularly drawn to Vegetarian Restaurants, but I came to try it and loved it. Ah! And my girlfriend Romina is a great fan of the place…

Brilliant! Did you know that 3 out of 4 of Teresa Carles’s customers are women?

Well I didn’t know the exact percentage, but I’ve seen that you always have a lot of ladies in the place… Well done Jordi! (laughs)…

Juan Arnau Jr. is a really nice, friendly guy. He talks about his work and the nightlife business with a passion and know-how which is both admirable and enviable. In addition to his Arnau genes (innovation, leadership, business acumen, organisational ability, lack of fear when taking big decisions…), he also has the background of his university studies and his hobby-passion for travelling around the world (Australia, South Africa…).  Florida, Monegros, elRow, KER… if there’s one thing that seems clear about after this interview, it’s that whatever the success of KER, and whatever happens with the short-term projects of the Enter Group, the Arnau family are and will continue to be key players on the Dance Music scene at a global level. They have analysed the errors made in the past and have managed to learn wisely from the lessons life offers us in return for the failures endured; and this has made them stronger. No-one can promise them that they will not commit errors again in the future, but this does not worry them. When they get knocked down, they get back up again. With more enthusiasm and hope than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow. With a great big smile on their faces and happy to be wherever they happen to be. At the door of each and every one of their clubs after a long working session. Whatever the time. And asking their customers the same question. The same question that their grandfather and their father used to ask, and the same one that their sons and daughters will no doubt ask in the future: “How’s it gone tonight? Have you had a good time?”