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Clubs tell parliament that without protection, gentrification threatens their existence

Berlins renowned nightclubs are on track to be awarded the same cultural status as opera houses and theatres in order to protect them from gentrification.

A group dedicated to protecting the German capitals nightlife took its campaign to parliament on Wednesday, urging more protection as more venues are closed to make way for new-builds and as growing numbers of residents file complaints about noise.

About 100 clubs have closed in the past 10 years, and a further 25 are under threat. So serious has the problem become that it has its own word: clubsterben, or club death.

Clubcommission, a collective of club owners and supporters who compiled the data on closed clubs, told the Bundestags committee for building, living and urban development that music clubs were the pulse of the city, playing a vital role in Berlins cultural life as well as bringing millions of euros to the local economy.

An estimated 3 million tourists come to Berlin annually to visit its clubs, the Clubcommission found. The clubs contributed 1.5bn to the local economy last year.

Clubcommission told the Bundestag that music clubs were the pulse of the city. Photograph: Felix Clay/The Guardian

The Bundestag commission also heard that Berlins nightlife is a magnet for young workers participating in the citys burgeoning startup scene and that without them the city risked losing its attractiveness.

People travel from around the world to visit Berlins clubs, many of which are housed in old factories, disused warehouses, abandoned swimming pools, underground air raid shelters and former breweries. They initially flourished in the early 1990s following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Gentrification has not only enabled property developers to easily push out clubs, which are officially classed alongside brothels and casinos in terms of their importance to the city and lack the rights of theatres and other cultural venues. The growth in housing in Berlin had also led to a rise in the disputes between venues and residents, many of whom complain about noise from the clubs.

Clubs cited to the commission on Wednesday included Farbfernseher (coloured TV), Rosis and Stadtbad Wedding, all of which were forced to close after landlords refused to extend their rental contracts on the grounds of noise complaints.

Rosis nightclub, which was forced to close. Photograph: Eden Breitz/Alamy Stock Photo

Axel Ballreich, chair of the group Livekomm, a collective of 580 clubs from across Germany, told InfoRadio: Clubs by law are considered on a par with places of entertainment such as gaming halls precisely those things that people dont want to have in their neighbourhoods. We would like to have the same rights as concert halls or opera houses, which would give us a completely different standing.

The main supporters of the initiative, which includes proposals on better insulation for existing clubs, are the Greens and Die Linke, with the tacit support of members of the Christian Democrats and the pro-business FDP. They are pushing for a law that would recognise clubs as cultural venues.

Pamela Schobess, who runs the the Berlin club Gretchen, told the committee that the current classification as places of entertainment hangs over us like Damocles sword. Its just not fair to equate us with brothels and gambling halls, she said, adding that the classification made clubs highly vulnerable.

Jakob Turur, a former nightclub owner, said if the law was not changed. clubs would fall victim to commercialisation and mainstreaming Already were seeing clubs pushed to the margins of cities because the rents are too high and investors dont want to make long-term contracts. That is no recipe for a diverse cultural offering.

Under the proposed plans, investors and new owners would be obliged to protect new buildings from noise when their properties were close to clubs. Noise barriers and thicker windows to which the state of Berlin has already donated funding are also seen as possible measures. Its vital for us that we have a place in the law books and building regulation, Ballreich said. It cant be that clubs are pushed to the outer edges of cities. Then they will lose their diversity.

We hope to be able to convince the politicians of the fact that club culture is important, in the hope of having a long-term creative communication with them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/12/berlins-nightclubs-fight-for-same-cultural-status-as-opera-houses