Goodbye Jelsa Bench, Hello Carpe Diem? Mayor Niksa Peronja Gives Prime Concession to Hvar Party Partner

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March 31, 2018 – All change in the heart of intellectual life on Hvar, as Jelsa’s famous Bench, aka the island Wikipedia, looks set to move way for the expansion of the Hvar party to central Hvar. 

It is, perhaps, my finest achievement in my miserable existence so far – making a seemingly innocuous part of the Jelsa furniture internationally famous. My obsession with The Bench is well documented, an institution which has sat for years in front of the municipal building commanding views over Jelsa’s harbour and occupied by the wise old men of Jelsa, whose daily musings could give Google a run for its money as the fount of all knowledge. International bloggers have visited The Bench, taken selfies, and spread the word around the globe about one of Dalmatia’s most sacred institutions. 

Not for much longer. 

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The Czech models of the regular Fashion Foto workshops held in Ivan Dolac will have to find other locations to impress local admirers, for The Bench – a bastion of traditional Jelsa life – is to be moved to make way for progress. 

Behind The Bench lies Jelsa’s municipal building. Devastated by fire back in 2003, it has been expensively renovated and now houses many of the town’s institutions, including the office of Mayor Niksa Peronja, whose office boasts an even better view, one overlooking the harbour and The Bench. 

In the floor below the mayor, and directly behind The Bench is a ground floor space which, apart from occasional usage for local product fairs, is rarely used. The news that the municipal space had been rented out to a high-quality restaurant from Istria was met with surprise and initial approval in these quarters. A quality gourmet addition to this part of Jelsa could only be a good thing, surely? 

Curious to see who the new neighbours were, a quick search started to raise a few alarm bells. The first alarm bell was that the sparse media coverage of the company which was awarded the 15-year concession, was spelt incorrectly in the media. Not Luxar Solutions (a name that Mayor Peronja used again in an SMS to be yesterday), but Luksar Solutions. 


I had never heard of the company, so I did the natural thing (I guess I could have asked The Bench), and Google told me that they were an IT company, with no mention of any restaurant experience in their portfolio. 


Not only that but the company seemed to have no employees and very little activity. A Facebook page followed by just 9 people

Something was not quite right. I asked a couple of people before I arrived in Jelsa if they knew anything about the company taking over Gradska Kavana (the Town Cafe) before I arrived in Jelsa for Easter. Something to do with Carpe Diem I was told by more than one person.

Really? The Carpe Diem party coming to the chilled family destination of Jelsa? Say it wasn’t so. I sent a message to the mayor asking him what he knew about the Carpe Diem link, and was reassured when he replied he was not aware of any connection with Carpe Diem. Mayor Peronja has always been a very accessible mayor and he agreed to meet me for a beer this morning to answer my questions. It was quite a meeting. 

The first encouraging thing he told me was that although Luksar Solutions is an IT company, one of the company partners runs a very successful restaurant business in Istria. They would be bringing some high-quality gourmet experience to Jelsa. This sounded great on paper. I Googled the restaurant, Pietas Julia in Pula.


(Photo credit – Facebook page of Pietas Julia Pula)

I was initially encouraged to see that at least the high-quality restaurant had more than 9 Facebook fans, but from the cover photo (above), am not sure what the guys from The Bench would make of it all. Or the restaurant’s Facebook description – a “Dance club & nightclub in Pula”.

Curious to see how the high-quality restaurant looked, I turned to our old friend, YouTube, to see if it could shed any light.

It could. 

That kind of feels a little like Carpe Diem, I mentioned to a friend over coffee. 

“Oh, the word on the street is that Carpe Diem has taken Gradska Kavana and also the island of Zecevo (which lies just off Vrboska),” said my friend. I heard the same thing from at least five independent people in Jelsa in the last 48 hours. And yet the mayor said he knew nothing. Either he is stupid (which he most certainly is not) or there was more to this story than meets the eye. Just for fun, I decided to Google ‘Luksar Solutions Carpe Diem”, and here is what I found – Luksar, the IT company which seemingly does nothing, owns at least one of Carpe Diem’s websites


Who would have thought? And not only that, but the Luksar owner is happily sharing Carpe Diem Beach events on his Facebook and is friends with some of the owners. Nothing wrong with that, but how the Carpe Diem connection was missed in the due diligence was an interesting point, a point I put to the mayor.  He replied very openly with five words which made me immediately suspicious:


(Mayor Niksa Peronja, second from right, sitting on The Bench with Cellar Doors from San Francisco, before what is believed to be the first international concert on a Dalmatian bench)

“There was a public tender…”

A public tender which was so detailed (my interpretation – so well-written that only the intended winner need apply) that there was only one applicant. It was an IT company which happens to own Carpe Diem websites and has a partner dealing in restaurants. Does the company itself have the experience to run a hospitality business?

The terms of the tender are quite interesting (and Jelsa restaurateurs, please look away now). The restaurant will have a licence to be open until 01:00 or 02:00 and will be open 12 months a year. The monthly rent for this prime piece of real estate (the concession is for 15 years) is just 1,167 euro a month, according to the mayor. But not only that – all renovation costs will be offset against the rent, so the reality is that Jelsa will probably get nothing from the deal in terms of rental income. Having announced that the restaurant would be open by May 15, the mayor today gave a date of June 15. With such favourable terms, and with many Jelsa restaurateurs looking for the best premises, it is somewhat incredible that there was only one bidder.

Unless you remember that we live in The Beautiful Croatia. 

“According to the contract, the company has to move its headquarters to Jelsa. Has it done so?”


“Have they actually started renovations?”

“No, but they say they are coming next week.”


(Photo credit Visit Hvar)

The other rumour that is in the cafes is that Carpe Diem, or its partners, have also got the concession on the tiny island of Zecevo, which lies between Jelsa and Vrboska. Once a popular FKK destination, the facilities on the island have fallen into disrepair, and while investment is welcome, quite how that would affect the popular and lucrative FKK camp in Vrboska nearby is another question. I heard different rumours a year ago about Carpe Diem wanting to take Zecevo, but these were dismissed by the mayor, who said in any case that he controls what time any party could finish, and it would not be later than 21:00 on his watch. 

Perhaps – but a replica of Carpe Diem on the riva with Stipanska a boat ride away is not so crazy a notion if the concession for the main place has already being granted. 

“It is a restaurant, it has nothing to do with the party.”

Try telling that to, for example, the neighbours of Hula Hula, where the only action 11 years ago was a guy selling ice creams and beers from a cooler.  

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As for The Bench, it is sadly in the way of ‘progress’ and a new home has yet to be agreed. The wise old men are far from happy to be moved from this idyllic spot, and suggestions of the main park and in front of the Konzum supermarket have met with less than a lukewarm response. 

I have a feeling it will be one of those summers…  

And I leave you with the words of the very successful Joe Basic at the first Ultra Europe press conference at the Poljud Stadium back in 2013 when talking about bringing Ultra Europe to Hvar Town:

“We are changing the profile of the destination.”

And how. 



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