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Berlin clubs asking for protection against gentrification
Photography Antoine Julien, via Unsplash

Clubs in Berlin are asking parliament for protection against gentrification

Currently classified as ‘entertainment venues’, the city’s nightclubs are fighting to be recognised as cultural institutions

Over the last ten years, approximately 100 clubs have closed in Berlin – the most recent casualty being Neukölln’s Griessmuehle, which shut its doors at the beginning of this month. Now, nightclubs in the city are asking parliament to recognise them as cultural institutions, ultimately saving them from gentrification.

Clubs in the German capital are currently classified as ‘entertainment venues’ alongside brothels and casinos, but are fighting for the same recognition as opera houses, concert halls, and theatres, which would give them the legal status to protect them.

“It’s important to have more cultural areas in the city,” Lutz Leichsenring, Berlin’s Club Commission spokesperson, tells Dazed. “In these locations, it can be a little louder, have more emissions, and (most of them are) old enough to build residential areas to support the cultural vibrancy.”

Members of the Club Commission appeared in parliament last week, arguing that clubs are “the pulse of the city”, which bring three million people a year to Berlin. A recent study revealed that club visitors spent just under €1.5 billion (£1.26 billion) in 2018 alone.

The proposed plans would mean that investors and owners would have to protect new buildings from noise if they’re in close proximity to clubs. “We want to have this agent of change, which is already in place in the UK,” Leichsenring continues, “where if you build a building next to a music venue, you have to do some proofing of it.” Possible solutions include noise barriers and thicker windows.

Following protests against the closure of Griessmuehle last month, the Club Commission took to the streets again last week (February 12), urging for protection in the face of closures due to high rents, short-term leases, and noise complaints. The group explains that 15 clubs are currently under threat – there’s even a German word for it: clubsterben, or ‘club dying’.

“We have the support that shows the relevance of music clubs in the city,” says Leichsenring. “That’s why we do protests – as well, of course, to be more tenable on the political side.”

In November 2018, local governments showed support for Berlin’s nightlife, freeing up €1 million (£824k) to help soundproof clubs to minimise the conflict between late-night venues and residential areas nearby. But clubs still continue to close. 

“People are helpless,” Leichsenring told Dazed in January, “because they see that (the city is losing) its identity and heartbeat.” Organisers of the renowned clubnight Cocktail D’Amore added: “Gentrification is spreading quickly, and affecting so many things about the city and its residents. Clubbing is not only about frivolities. Partying was, is, and will always be political.”

Read our feature about George Markakis’ film EX, which uses a cast of real-life partiers to truthfully portray Berlin’s nightlife, its communities, and the drug culture fuelling it.