A CITY FULL OF FEELINGS A CITY FULL OF FEELINGS







Under the auspices of:
evel limassol

Yiannis Antoniadis: The owner of Guaba in his first interview about everything and everyone!

He sat in one of the large, leather armchairs, which was recently added to Guaba’s furnishings, but he couldn’t settle down; it was as if something was constantly itching him throughout the interview. "My mother tells me so, too, that ever since I was a child, I couldn’t stay still in one place," he confesses. His energy is the driving force, in everything he attempts. Even if there is something that doesn’t match perfectly with his personal taste, he can make it work, if he feels strongly enough about it, if he gets passionate with it.

He was born by 20-year-old parents, when they were still studying in England (after a night of fun, as he says smiling, always keen on using humor and teasing). He saw the world for the first time in a foreign country, but soon he came to Limassol, where he grew up in his early years. Yiannis Antoniadis, child of a youthful passion, would inevitably turn out to be a man passionate with everything he does. Thus, whatever you see, whatever you taste, whatever you experience in Guaba, is of excellent quality and attended to every detail. This is why Guaba is not just another beach bar, but has been listed high in charts of the 20 best beach bars and clubs in the world.

Besides, today the business is spreading widely to several branches, with a Guaba shop that operates in the bar, with supporting sports and weak social groups and much more. Of course, about 2 decades ago, when he was just organizing small beach parties for friends, while working at his mother's shop at Anexartisias Street, he couldn’t even imagine where his need of constantly creating something new, would lead him.

"I was selling clothes and shoes. Because I was already well-known in that area, when I went to work at the store, we made a sales record," says the restless adult teenager, and this is one of the few moments throughout our entire conversation when he speaks so proudly about one of his achievements.

A globally recognized brand was not something we were aiming for. But everything but we did put our souls in everything we did and this is what made it stand out.

People love him and he is happy to be the recipient of this love. "We never deceived anybody. That's why they love us," he says, while he avoids to refer to himself by "me" when talking. "We have, of course, dislikes, too. If no one dislikes you, then you're probably doing something wrong. We like to talk to the people, though," he explains, attributing the good relationships that he develops with his environment, to the human and personal contact.

Guaba at the beginning, as Yiannis remembers it, as though 12 years haven't already gone by…

"At some point, the local authorities began bidding for community kiosks on the beach. In Agios Tychonas there was one that was in the middle of nowhere. I made a small offer then, as much as I could afford, with a rent of less than 1000 pounds per month. At that time there were not even roads to get there, actually there was not even a beach, it was an area filled with stones. I was the only one who had made an offer for this one. Proud and excited, I took my mother there to show her the place, knowing in my mind how I wanted to set up the events I was planning for the place. She took me for crazy and wondered "who will come to find you here?"

The people literally fought for this place, it was something like a revolution. People believed in what Guaba represented, and what is still our motto today: Just be yourself and wake up your weird. 

"The name was an invention of mine. I wrote down some names, some random syllables, and it came out at some point. I asked my lawyer to register it and so it started. At the age of 27, I worked at the bar as an one-man show. The beer barrels would open one by one , and in the evening I was sleeping there, in a mattress inside the place. That's how Guaba started, with a barrel of beer served through the hut's small window, with music from a small radio - which was finally taken over by the authorities. With all the money coming in, I made small renovations, we put tents, a few chairs and loungers, and then the music was also a regular part of the entertainment."

Yiannis 12 years ago, in front of the community facilities at Agios Tychonas beach, where Guaba Beach Bar first started.

"We started with friends, friends who loved the place, and then people started joining us massively. They were coming in the morning, they would knock on the window, and I would wake up, dive and start to serve. In the end, the beach began to change, to become more prominent. Then the jealousy came along, by those who saw a great change from a young man whom they didn’t take into account. Thus, in 2007 the war began. There were many incidents, they came after us, they would have us under custody, they took our loudspeakers like we were common criminals. To some extent, it may have been justified, provided that there has been a radical change in the area and some may have been displeased, but I think the authorities pushed things far more than the normal back then. I was younger too, I was fighting back. I don’t keep any hard feelings, of course, even though at many times I reached the point of having 800 - 900 people in the bar without any loudspeakers to play music and serve them."

All these people seemed to be on a hibernation mode before Guaba: they would either stay at home, or go somewhere to have fun without being themselves. 

"All we wanted to do was to propose a new kind of entertainment next to the sea that didn’t exist in Limassol, keeping the value for money attitude. In the end, the war we were subjected to, resulted for people to come closer to Guaba. The people literally fought for this place, it was something like a revolution. People believed in what Guaba represented, and what is still our motto today: Just be yourself and wake up your weird. They found in this different bar, a place where they felt like home, where they didn’t need to wear a suit or drive an expensive car to go out at night. All these people seemed to be on a hibernation mode before Guaba: they would either stay at home, or go somewhere to have fun without being themselves. I was getting that feeling, I knew that people wanted to be laid back in order to have fun."

Guaba back when it first started , when it was just a hut on the beach, with which people felt a connection from the very first moment.

"In 2008 (3 years after the beginning) we had to renew our contract with the Community Council. Eventually, the local authorities re-launched the bid to raise the amount for the agreement. The offer we submitted was better than the one the Council chose eventually, but we were rejected with the excuse that the bid wasn’t signed in 1 page. So, we left Agios Tychonas and I wish that we never have to return back there. From Agios Tychonas we were literally tossed out. We loaded all our stuff in a truck and we left. These things are not easily forgotten, though I don’t want to talk about what happened then."

We set it up slowly, with the financial capacity we had, without loans and uncontrolled expenses. I say this to anyone who starts something new today: invest as much as your budget allows you to. If you start with a great debt, how will you cope later? 

"We had to move in 1 month. I was really under a lot of stress, but this always helps me to make an immediate move and make decisions quickly. We searched everywhere, our mind was constantly working and looking for places. If I hadn’t found a place, I would have closed this bar and I would have opened another. No matter what, I wouldn’t have given up the effort. I knew that the owners of the place where we are today wanted to rent it. It was an entertainment area before, too, but the owners had their own families and they didn’t wish to continue the business. I rented this place with the amount I would have given for the bid to Agios Tychonas, which is enormous compared to that small community booth. We grabbed the brushes, the place was totally white and we changed it radically. Around 50 friends gathered up and we achieved the impossible. In the end, the change turned out to be for the best."

The clown, the Guaba mascot, was already a figure since the old beach bar in some events, like some kind of weird guest among the people in the party, and it evolved into the representative figure of the place. 

The story before: "People knew me through events' planning"

How did your involvement with this sector come up?
Still as a student I got engaged and I had a lot of experiences with smaller events. Actually, while studying in the UK, I majored in events planning. The Beer Festival that we set up, under the auspices of the Limassol Municipality, was the first major event I got involved with. Every year the Festival was getting bigger than the previous one, but to grow for it to the point it could, it needed sponsors that didn’t exist at that time. I developed it for 3 years, but after that I couldn’t do it alone, so I stopped.

Did you expect that you would be the owner of a place recognized as a global brand?
It is not something we have been aiming at. But whatever we did, we were doing it with passion and that’s why it stood out. As soon as I came back from my studies, I went with my friend and best man Yiotis, who would later on start the Street Life Festival, and we told to the Mayor Demetris Kontidis that we would organize a Beer Festival in Limassol. It was a huge event for the city and it was happening for the first time; it had a free entrance and it would gather around 10,000 people each night. So, from early on, I started setting up big events and I wanted them to grow as much as possible.

Marios Georgiou, our athlete, was wearing Guaba's t-shirt at the Olympic Village in Rio and people were approaching and hugging him for Guaba. He came and told it to me with great joy… Then I realized that, okay, we have really accomplished something.

Was the UK a factor in your decision to deal with this area?
At the time I was studying in the UK, there were major changes to the music scene. We were going at events and festivals and we were seeing Djs that no one knew in Cyprus. At that time there was an important development in electronic music, the Dj left his little table and moved on the stage, becoming the center of attention in a party. I was there, I was watching the whole thing starting, I saw the music trends going from rock to electronic and it was a unique experience.

That was very impressive and I wanted to bring this kind of entertainment to Cyprus with various events, in Pissouri, in Governor's beach, at the beach of the COT in Dasoudi. Back then I was only 22. We didn’t have Facebook or anything else. We were only advertising through phones and flyers so the people could be informed. I remember that the event at the COT was amazing. It was the first event with local Djs and a lot of people came.

Guaba is not just his job. The excitement, the love and  pride when he talks about it, prove that it is way more: some kind of family, his own "baby".

So, music is important to you.
Yes, definitely. I’m listening to music all the time, ever since we were rockers until now with other kinds of sounds. Also, people are an important factor. I like to be among a lot of people. Besides, the first events we organized were just for friends, on some beach with an electric generator. Then, we saw that people liked this and we made it bigger.

So, that’s how people got to know you.
Yes, that was my job. People knew me through the events' planing.

Was it something you chose because you enjoyed nightlife?
While I was still at school, I wasn’t going out so much. I wasn’t fond of the idea of going out at night. I was dealing more with sports.

Many things happened, they came after us, they were having us under custody and they were taking our loudspeakers like we were common criminals. Of course, I don’t have any hard feelings…

Who supported you when you started dealing with all these?
There were many people, people that I had good relations with. The Lanitis Bros company helped me and Mike Spanos did too, with marketing budgets. But more than anyone, my family was the one who helped me, my parents were the greatest supporters, as did my childhood friends, too.

Did you have anyone to provide business guidance?
Not exactly. Of course, my grandfather, the late Yiangos Pentaliotis, did open his own shoe shop, after he had left school from the age of 10 and worked as a shoemaker. He was especially loved by the people, also known in Limassol as a winter swimmer. He had 150 godchildren in Limassol. You know, poor people, when they manage to secure themselves financially, they are very generous. My father, Neocles, owns Leatherex, which was a shoe factory. It is one of the few companies in the industry that didn’t go bankrupt. They managed to set up their business well, with exports to various markets and other activities.

I wanted to introduce a different kind of entertainment in Cyprus. Back then I was only 22. We didn’t have Facebook or anything else. We were only advertising through phones and flyers so the people could be informed. 

Ever since I was a child, I have worked at various jobs. I was always doing something in the summers. I was a carrier during the grapes collection for my grandfather, Yiannakis Antoniades, who was in the grapes trade, a beach boy at Four Seasons, when I was very young, I was also working in my mother's shop and I was very good at sales. If I have a child in the future, I will have it working, even with a computer. This is how you learn, this is how you see how the money are earned. Nowadays I see the young people coming here to work and they can’t make it easily.  I do like having Cypriot people working here, if they are good enough of course. But, to tell the truth, Europeans do better at work because they are in need and because they don’t have the security of a home, of a family that will take care of them.

"Whatever we did, we did it with passion, and that was what made it stand out"

Everyone knows Guaba: young and old, people from the hoods, people from the high society, everyone. What does this mean to you?
I know that people are talking about Guaba. They say good and bad things. However there is no such thing as bad advertising. Definitely, we believe that we are just starting now, no matter what we have done. Once the season is over, we say that we start to set something up from the beginning. If you ask others, much more powerful and important people, they will say that nothing has yet been achieved. Those who come out and talk about their success are the ones who, eventually, haven’t done anything. Here, we set up something with great passion, this is also the necessary condition for anyone who wants to work for Guaba. This passion, combined with our vision, are the ingredients of our success.

The power of the business is the name of Guaba, the brand name. We are the beach bar whose the name has been tattooed on people’s bodies the most around the world. 

Doesn’t the size of what you have achieved so far, count?
I will tell you when I got to realize how big it is. We supported Marios Georgiou, our athlete who had participated in the Rio Olympics in gymnastics, because he really has no help from somewhere and because we strongly believe in his strengths. He is only 18 years old and he is a real diamond. He was wearing Guaba's t-shirt at the Olympic Village and people were approaching and hugging him for Guaba. He came and told it to me with great joy, and then I realized that, okay, we have really accomplished something (he laughs, as he always does with everyone, spreading positive energy everywhere around him).

Those days I was at a huge festival in Belgium, at Tomorrowland, one of the biggest in the world. Friends had invited us and we were at the place where the Djs and their managers were sitting, they knew Guaba and they were coming over to me to talk future business and to book performances at the beach bar. Well, you can feel great satisfaction at that moment. 

Did you ever expect that this place would be what it is today?
The first summer in the new place in 2009 was meant for getting familiar with the place. Leaving Agios Tychonas, we didn’t even have the equipment we wanted. But people insisted on their massive attendance, since we would have 1000 people or more during some evenings. We set it up slowly over the next few years, with the financial capacity we had each time, without large loans and uncontrolled expense. My parents couldn’t have helped either, with 4 children in the family. I say this to anyone who starts something new today: invest as much as your budget allows you to and when you become stronger, you can do everything you want. If you start with a great debt, how will you cope later? You will be constantly under stress.

Right now my baby is Guaba, it's my whole life, I'm staying here, here I'm sleeping, it's not just a job. I like being here. I’m waiting to see my friends, they are waiting to see me too. 

This year, of course, we have invested heavily in the renovation, the upgrading and the maintenance of the area, which always costs quite enough, because we are near the sea, which does cause some damage. We don’t want everything to be perfect in terms of furnishing or decorations, because we don’t want to create a feeling of a set up area that is not relaxed, but we surely want the technology we have in the place to be excellent, especially in terms of sound. We emphasize in quality without leaving the relaxed atmosphere we have, with the colors, our graffiti, etc.

This kind of entertainment had begun to spread. This is the kind of vibe we get from the Street Life Festival, for example. Was that a goal?
Everything we have done, we did it for our place. If that became a trend, it means that it is something appreciated and loved by the people. We care about quality, and we would never lower our standards on that, neither on drinks, nor on the entertainment that we provide. We have never deceived anyone and this is something that becomes known in our city, and abroad as well. This is how we create the name of Guaba. Yiotis, who started the Street Life Festival, is my best man and I know he has the same mentality. 

Guaba is the beach bar whose the name has been tattooed on people’s bodies the most around the world. 

Social media came up from nowhere and you had a lot to do with it from the beginning. How did you handle it?
We were among the first ones to have a Facebook pages. Since we work a lot with young people, we need to follow what's new, otherwise we will be left outside. Guaba is all about the youth – that’s the big truth – from its music to its companions and its friends, it is youth. We can’t stay behind in technology. We did, of course, start with the old school of advertising, with flyers and door-to-door distribution, etc. We continue to use the print, the flyers, despite the fact that we use the new technology very much.

Guaba is one of the first entertainment venues that used photos and video in a great extent.
Yes, I was following the work of a young boy, Alex (aka Alex Is Dead), who was preparing clips when he was going out with his friends, and I liked what he did, he seemed to have talent and he had studied photography, too. I asked him to meet and so our collaboration begun, from 2012 until today. With Alex we introduced more creative elements in Guaba's promotional videos, leaving the standardized images of nightlife with the drinks, the Djs and the dancers on the bars. We put the story inside the videos, we created special characters and that made them known to the whole world. Sometimes there may be a downturn in the ideas, but they are always renewed with new material.

Do you have a good team?
Yes, of course, and we invest in this. For sure, the man I trust the most, the one that I consider the place as his own, even if he is not a partner or a shareholder, who is always next to Guaba and is the one who will take it in the future, is my brother, Nicolas. I have no children, nor am I married, so the place is his. After all, even now, he does handle very important parts of the business. He is with me to the most important business issues.

Ever since I was a child, I have worked at various jobs. This is how you learn, this is how you see how the money are earned. Now days, I see some young people coming to work and they don't  really have it.

Do you prefer to have staff working for years in the place?
In some cases, yes. As far as the security staff is concerned, the people who are at the door, it is good for them to be recognized by the visitors, and for them to recognize the people inside the place. As for the other positions, fortunately or not, most of them will lose their enthusiasm in 2 - 3 years. One will not wish to be a bartender forever, he or she will be looking to do other things. I am glad when someone leaves this place and has gained knowledge in order to be successful in whatever he will do later.

Is nationality a criterion for being part of the Guaba team?
No, I don’t mind where someone is from, it matters only if he or she can work here legally. Nor do I care if they have no experience. If someone has a positive attitude, they will come and learn. I also avoid hiring people that have picked up bad habits in other places and they do not work professionally, something very common in Cyprus. Most of the companies that closed couldn’t control their staff and especially the losses in drinks. The consumption of drinks is so large every day, that if you don’t have a proper control, to know who gives away drinks and how many, you will get out of control and that will lead to problems.

I do not care if they have no experience. If someone has a positive attitude, they will come and learn. I also avoid hiring people that have picked up bad habits in other places and they do not work professionally, something very common in Cyprus. 

So you don’t allow the bartenders to give away drinks?
No, of course they can. Besides, we do build personal relationships at work. However, every treat must be noted down and measured in the inventory. We will not become impersonal and distant when serving the people, we will not build up walls between us, like Ibiza did, which has lost its hospitality. We like to treat because it helps to get in touch with the people, as long as there is control. If you lose the control of your supplies and your inventory even for a while, the losses are enormous. The staff is too large, the drinks are too many and I always have to be there to manage it. Even the smallest mistake from anyone can lead to a great damage.

Is the staff the most important part of a business?
Yes, I think it is. Actually, if your team respects your job, it's the best thing you could have. With the Guaba staff I always keep a friendly relationship and you can ask whoever you want from the people here. The perfect combination is friendly relationships, along with discipline, professionalism and specific principles. Therefore, if someone leaves Guaba and goes somewhere else to work, with the principles we build, he knows that he will have very positive recommendations to present into his next employer.

Yiannis in his office with the clown figures, mascot of Guaba and, maybe even, somehow his own alter ego. He has built some areas in the place, suitable for sleeping when the work is over, around 5 am, so that he can get back to work the next morning, after waking up and swimming in the sea.

"I saw how they work in England and I appreciated their professionalism"

Did you follow an English model in the way you set up this business?
Yes, quite a lot. I saw how they were working and I appreciated their professionalism, which we don’t have in Cyprus. We may never reach the level that England had even at that time. It may take us decades for Cyprus to go in this direction. Here there is a mentality that if you are working at a bar you can treat anyone without control and without reporting back to someone. And this is something that eventually has passed to the customer as well, who expects that exact thing from the bartender. The customer has to respect the place he visits, but also the one behind the bar and leave a tip in the end as well.

Is this the business model of the most popular beach bar in Cyprus then?
It's part of the model. On one hand we have the old school management, the relationship with the staff, the principles and the rules we follow in the management of the work, with discipline and seriousness. On the other hand, we have the new age management, which has to do with the technology we use. For example, we have set up our very advanced software so we are able to manage our stock of beverages precisely.

We don’t want everything to be perfect in terms of furnishing or decorations, but we surely want the technology we have in the place to be excellent. We emphasize in quality without leaving the relaxed atmosphere we have, with the colors, our graffiti, etc.

Do you, yourself personally, have a role model?
My mentor, as I always say, is the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, with whom we have the same hairstyle, but - unfortunately - not the same bank account (laughs). This man managed to dominate in everything. He started selling books online and managed to conquer the world. He is ahead of everyone and invests continuously in other areas. He recently bought Whole Foods stores for $13 billion.

I would give everything, besides Guaba of course (he laughs again, as he does whenever he really means what he says), to spend a day with Jeff Bezos, so I can see how one day is at the office of this great businessman, who I really would like for a mentor. For me, Amazon is the most integrated company in the world. I have read about his next ventures in a few years and there are things that you could have only seen in science fiction movies some time ago. 

Innovation and management are what makes Guaba a succesfull business, after all?
These too, yes, but first of all it's what you get from your bar when you are doing something you love and you see the people responding to it. This is totally addictive, it's like a drug. The other day we had an event with some of the old Guaba's Djs with a lot of people, and they were coming to thank me for the memories they got to relive. This feeling is the ultimate satisfaction. If you have this, then with a good team and a good management you can succeed.

With Andreas Michaelides, bars and service manager, having chilled, Guaba nectar shots.

Does Guaba make a lot of money?
The money it’s not the issue. The power of the business is the name of Guaba, the brand name. We are the beach bar whose the name has been tattooed on people’s bodies the most around the world. Over 800 people have tattooed the Guaba logo on them. Apart from that, yes, we do make money, but with the money coming in, we constantly invest in improving the place, the sound, the venue, everything.

That’s why you started a franchise of the store?
Look, we have seen a lot of people about the franchise, but we also had to reject a lot so far. Some people come and want to invest money so they can build their own Guaba, but we can’t give this name to someone who hasn’t done this job before, just because there is an amount for the investment. This is doomed to fail. The goal was never the profit. We wanted the business to be viable and profitable, which is required for its continuous evolution.

 Ιf your team respects your job, it's the best thing you could have... With the Guaba staff I always keep a friendly relationship.

Are the new elements in the business your ideas?
It is a combination of opinions, opinions from my associates, the preferences of the people. I listen and I observe, then I filter them all and move on with the decision that I think is right.

What new does Guaba propose after 12 years of entertainment in Limassol?
Guaba has set up many brands these years and one of the biggest is IV (Immature Veterans), which is basically a reunion with the old customers and friends of the bar. But we are continuing to bring new ideas, which were presented this year for the first time, in order to become institutions for every summer in Limassol.

The GU festival will become one of the biggest institutions. RnB Flower is also a new flower-themed event that will be back in 2018. Jelo Summer Jam is a day that we decided to dedicate to skateboard, breakdance and bike acrobatics, wanting to give room for expression to the young people who have talent and desire for action. At the same time, Guaba has been responsible for organizing the after party at the Limassol Marathon for some years now. It is the biggest sports event in Cyprus and we believe that we should all contribute to its development. 

"Guaba is strictly against drugs"

There is a reputation that the bar is related to drugs.
This is not true at all. It’s just the kind of music we host that is associated with drugs, and this has created wrong impressions. After all, this was the first time people would see a crowd of 2,000 people going crazy with music. The only thing one could assume was that they were definitely using something. This has changed over the years. And I challenge anyone who believes anything about Guaba, to come and see with their own eyes whether it is true or not. People can see every day the identity of the bar and how it works. We are just ourselves and we have nothing to hide.

Is the satisfaction you get from work your only "drug"? Were you not involved with drugs in any other way?
Never. In no way. Many great and successful people have admitted that they used drugs, Richard Branson, even Steve Jobs. If I tried, I would have no problem saying it, but I'm just not a fan, so simple. Inside Guaba, I’m strictly against of anyone using drugs. And anyone can testify this at any time at the bar. Outside of Guaba, anyone can do as they like.If I had the power to change the legislation, I would make it harsher for drug dealers, in order to inflict severe penalties. Personally, I’m fond of exercise. I practice quite a lot every day, and this doesn’t match with drugs. I prefer alcohol when I have fun and, of course, music is what lifts me up the most. But yes, I like alcohol.

I know people talks about Guaba. There is good and bad talking, but there is no such thing as a bad advertisement... I challenge anyone who believes anything about Guaba, to come and see with their own eyes.

What time do you start drinking in the day?
Always after midnight, of course. I can’t drink in the day, we have things to do. We have 2 shifts at this season: 1 for our daily operation (when we also deal with the preparations for the evening), and 1 for the night.

Could you do any other job, perhaps a more standardized one?
I certainly couldn’t be an accountant. I can’t sit and see numbers, I need to see the big picture. Certainly there are accountants who work better than any of us in our work. Besides, that's why we pay to have such good associates. Before, I had to deal with everything, but this was creating a lot of tension in the work.

"I would only do the event with the crucifixion again, if I had contacted the Church first"

You also had troubles with religion.
Yes, an issue came up when an event was organized one year, and some “good people” wanted to fight us because we were doing well. We are a small society, a little bit like a coffee shop and the people want to have something to talk about. So, at the annual carnival event of 2014, we did a satire, as in any such event, in which the clown was starring. We had represented the scene with the "sinful" clown of Guaba, who brought the new music. The judge had to decide who would be condemned to crucifixion (as was the case in the ancient times), the clown or a politician who represented those who brought the economic disaster to Cyprus. Eventually, the clown was condemned and crucified, but people demanded his return on the decks to play music, so he left the cross and continued the party. This was commented and judged by some as a blasphemy, accusing us of paralleling Christ's Crucifixion with the crucifixion of the clown.

We introduced more creative elements in Guaba's promotional videos, leaving the standardized images of nightlife. We put the story inside the videos, we created special characters and that made them known to the whole world. 

This had nothing to do with reality. We received many poisonous reactions. I stopped watching the comments on the internet at some point, they had turned it into something huge and evil, which had nothing to do with the truth. Then I decided to speak to the Bishop himself. He was aware of the issue, although he didn’t make any statements on it, and I took the initiative to meet him. Then he showed how close he is to the youth, he told me that there was no problem and he offered to come to Guaba and perform the official inauguration of the place. And so one day he came, the sanctification took place and so the issue closed. In this incident, we realized how much trouble was created because the matter was wrongly communicated, before our own videos and photographic material came out. If I could bring back time, I would have done the event again but I would have talked to the Bishop first.

How did you manage to cope with the intensity of those days and make decisions?
With swimming. I always find relief inside the sea.

What is the clown of Guaba? Does it symbolize anything?
We needed a mascot so we created the clown. He was already appearing in some events of the old Guaba, like a weird guest at the party, among the rest of the people. Slowly he began to have an artistic role, he started playing his own music and he had his own Dj sets.

The sea is a way of living for Yiannis, just as it was for his grandfather too, who was a winter swimmer. This is probably the secret for his energy and upbeat mood he keeps throughout the  day.

"Every day, the first thing I do after I wake up is going into the sea"

How does it feel to work constantly at a party?
The rhythms are not always so intense. We are working a lot in the months that the bar is open, but I'm resting during the rest of the months. At the end of the season we get to have more sleep, we travel, generally I take care of myself more and I am slowly preparing for the new season. Of course now, with the new restaurant, Dionysus Mansion, free time sure is limited.

How is your daily routine?
Every day we live a big festival in sequences, full of energy and action, from Monday to Sunday. What I’m trying to do is to make every day different, so we don’t get bored, neither we, nor the customers, who eventually receive all of this and follow it.

I have, of course, some things that are repeated in my everyday life. I usually sleep at 5 am and I wake up until 10 am. As soon as I wake up every morning, the first thing I do is to go into the sea. I’m swimming, I’m taking my SUP board, I’m exercising and so the day begins. The connection with the sea is unique. It's something I inherited from my grandfather, Yiangos Pentaliotis, who was also a winter swimmer.

When you do something you love and you see people responding to it… it is absolutely addictive, it is like a drug.

Do you personally enjoy any luxuries?
I wouldn’t say so. I don’t have a yacht, for example (he laughs). Until recently I was driving a small car, a smart, which I had for years. Lately I bought a better and more secure car. I go on some trips. I am an Asia lover, I must have travelled more than 10 times in different countries. Usually, I was going with a male companion, with those who were available in January, in order to enjoy relaxation, food and new landscapes.

You never travel alone?
I don’t like it. I can spend many hours alone here. And when I get my board and go to the open sea I like to be alone and calm down. But when I travel I want to have a company. You will always get acquainted with people when traveling too - I also promote the Guaba nectar with gifts whenever I go - but I also need fellow travelers. Lately my girlfriend is my companion to my trips.

Guaba Nectar is now a main element of the image of the beach bar and the experience it provides to its visitors.

How did you decide to create the Guaba nectar?
We had a disagreement with one of our suppliers on a drink of a particular brand. Then we stopped the collaboration and decided to create our own drink that was similar, which is produced by KEO, with our own recipe and exclusively with Cypriot raw materials.

Do you see yourself doing until you are 60 years old, for example?
Definitely no. Now, this is my first and last thought every day. But I don’t think I can do the same job with the same dedication and enthusiasm after several years. I will definitely keep the brand, but I will be in another position, with younger directors managing the bar with fresh perspectives and passion. After many hours and many years it gets tiring.

What about family? Do you want to have your own in the future?
Maybe in the future I will have a baby. But right now my baby is Guaba, it's my whole life, I'm staying here, here I'm sleeping, it's not just a job. I like being here. I’m waiting to see my friends, they are waiting to see me too. The working hours are such that it is best for me to stay here, of course with some comforts, not like in the beginning that I was sleeping on the floor.

"Limassol is our soul, the air of the city is feeding us"

Do you go on trips in Limassol?
Yes, I like different places. We head to Akrotiri, Lady's Mile, Fasouri, Kourion, Avdimou, to the most western beaches, for a walk, to contact nature. In the winter we go a lot to the mountains.

Could you stay anywhere else, except Limassol?
No, here is our soul, the air of the city is feeding us. 

What is the identity of Limassol that you think it should come out more?
It's the quality of life, the ability to enjoy products and services at very high standards. Multiculturalism is also an element of Limassol, too, and we particularly like it. This is what we mean by the phrase "the tribes of Guaba". We need to focus more on the hospitality and the high quality of services provided, whether someone is at Four Seasons, whether is at Guaba, or is at Kiki's kebab restaurant. We should all do our job correctly and the competition will continuously raise the level.

I live in a place that it’s like a paradise and I hear nagging and complaints from everywhere. We constantly complain about things, instead of doing something to change them. This bothers me...

What needs improvement in the city?
Something must be done about the old buildings and the visual pollution they cause on the coastal front of Limassol. Some will say that the high buildings that are being constructed now will damage the city. I say that if they are done correctly, they will be fine. The transportation is also a problem. It’s unacceptable not to know when the bus will arrive. As for the sea, yes, it’s dirty and this is a big problem. It’s something that has been deteriorated the recent years. A law should be enforced with heavy fines on ships that pollute the sea water. The fines and penalties should be so high that they would think twice, long before they even reach Limassol. The green areas must grow in the city, too. We need to see the laws that Singapore has for that, which is full of green spots in its center.

Is something bothering you about Limassol people?
Yes, there is a problem with our mentality, and this is also very apparent at schools. I see young people who don’t respect their schools, for example. This has to change and our system is responsible for the proper education. But what really bothers me is nagging. I live in a place that it’s like a paradise and I hear nagging and complaints from everywhere, both from government agencies and from the people, from everywhere.

Limassol is the quality of life, the ability to enjoy products and services at very high standards. Multiculturalism is also an element of Limassol, too, and we like it a lot.

I don’t like that this trend is prevailing, instead of doing something. There is a misery that doesn’t fit into the mindset of a growing city. We are constantly complaining about the slightest thing, instead of doing something to change it. In Limassol, people have to start seeing the big picture and become more open minded. We need to see Limassol as part of an international image and envision to become a pioneer in what we offer.

What else would you like to see in Limassol?
I would like to see more initiatives from local owners of private companies than from franchise companies, so you can feel the hospitality with a genuine Cypriot identity, as is the case of cities such as Florence and Athens, where a chain store is a second option. What makes the franchise to dominate in Cyprus is that it maintains a level of quality through a molded system that works well. Especially the foreigner, wants to see something different, to experience something from the city. In the most central parts of Limassol, franchise stores dominate.

The person who lives with a day-to-day wage, needs help to be able to have a good time in the city, especially when the city is constantly growing.

Service should also be improved. You need skills to know how to serve, how to do it properly and with a smile. The visitor wants to see a humane face, to be approached with a pleasant mood. This is part of the professionalism which you should work with. You can’t do something well if you don’t do it with passion. That's why in Guaba, when someone doesn’t have a good mood, I tell them to go home with paid wages, because if they stay, they could affect the rest of the team.

I would also like to see good 3-stars hotels in Limassol. It is a weakness that we don’t have this choice for tourists. We should have hotels with quality services and areas, such as Alasia, which can be an alternative for those who don’t want the ultimate 5-star luxury but still wish to enjoy a good level of accommodation. This way, we would have tourist traffic during the whole year. Also, we should have an increase in the number of cruise ships that arrive at the port can help. People that goes down town for 2 - 3 hours are a major factor for business. In the past, this was more often, but no longer.

At the same time, however, with all the growth, the luxury and wealth, the simple citizen, the resident of Limassol, must be able to live well. Some people have to take this seriously and reduce some fees, so the cost of living can be decreased. The person who lives with a day-to-day wage, needs help to be able to have a good time in the city, especially when the city is constantly growing.

Until 12 years ago, Giannis was living in a wooden hut, to eventually become the owner of one of the top beach bars in the world. He did it by putting his soul into the work, with a lot of passion, persistence and hard work. And vision above all. This is the identity of Guaba, to put the labels aside and one hug out of the whole world, just like back in the early days, when they were sleeping on the beach and they were camping outside until the bar would reopen.

"Guaba will never change. It is a trap in which many bars on abroad fell, which became more urban, more rigid. I could easily close the place and do a renovation that Limassol has never seen before. But we would have lost the game, this wouldn’t be Guaba any anymore."

Yiannis has great ideas, he can see the big picture and that's why Guaba is raising Limassol high above, all over the world. His feet are down on the earth, though. He avoids publicity or marketing his own image. That's why he never gave an interview before, about the whole course of his business. It’s not because he is distant or arrogant – on the contrary (even if he is the one who wakes up one morning and leaves with the private jet of the famous Dj, who played the night before at his bar, even if he is the man who receives smiles from internationally renowned artists and businessmen at Tomorrowland). For him, his own story and the story of Guaba, are worthy to the degree that they contribute to the image of Limassol. Besides, this is what he wants more: the city to grow, with people striving for it with the same persistence, dedication and humility he keeps, while fighting for his vision.

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