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Photography Antoine Julien, via Unsplash

Clubs are now cultural institutions in Germany

In an historic achievement after a year-long campaign, clubs and live music venues will no longer be considered entertainment venues

After a year-long campaign by activists, Germany has officially declared that clubs and live music venues will be recognised as cultural institutions.

Clubs in the country were previously classified as ‘entertainment venues’ alongside arcades, betting shops, and brothels, but will now be considered as ‘facilities of cultural purpose’ among opera houses, concert halls, and theatres. The decision will make clubs and music venues less vulnerable to urban development, investors, and gentrification.

The charge was led by members of cross-political parties, including the Greens, The Left, the Free Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and the CDU/CSU, who together founded the Parliamentary Forum Club Culture and Nightlife at the German Bundestag (parliament).

“We would like to thank the members of the Parliamentary Forum in particular for their commitment and perseverance in this matter,” Pamela Schobeß, the CEO of LiveKomm – a confederation of music venues in Germany – said in a press release. “With today’s decision, the Bundestag is sending a strong and long overdue signal to the republic. Music clubs are cultural institutions that shape the identity of city districts as an integral part of cultural and economic life.”

She continued: “Now an outdated law is to be adapted to reality. This helps to keep cities and neighbourhoods alive and liveable, and to protect cultural places from displacement.”

Lutz Leichsenring, Berlin’s Club Commission spokesperson, added: “This is the result of more than 20 years of nighttime advocacy in Berlin and at the federal level. This is an extraordinary decision and hopefully this example sets a worldwide precedent.”

Members of the Club Commission previously argued 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.

Despite this, over the last 10 years, approximately 100 clubs have closed in Berlin alone, with the figure now likely higher thanks to the pandemic. Although, clubs have got creative during lockdown, with Berghain opening as an art venue (featuring works by Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, and more) and KitKatClub stepping up as a COVID-19 test centre.

Speaking to Dazed in January last year, when Neukölln’s Griessmuehle shut its doors, Leichsenring said: “People are helpless because they see that (the city is losing) its identity and heartbeat.” Organisers of Griessmuehle’s 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 Dazed’s feature about the future of partying in a post-pandemic world here.