Club closures endanger Berlin's "party animal" vibe
By Alice Baghdjian
BERLIN (Reuters) - It's Friday night and hoards of hipsters and tourists are jostling to get into Berlin's clubs, lured by strobe lighting, queues with an eclectic mix of people and the promise of a non-stop party until Monday.
But in the former communist district of Prenzlauer Berg, it is quiet. Once abuzz with party goers until dawn, the quarter is now inhabited by wealthy professionals and their families who wheel prams rather than beer crates along its leafy streets.
There are almost no clubs left here, as gentrification, rising rents and complaints about noise take their toll, forcing some of the best known names to shut or go elsewhere.
The same is beginning to happen elsewhere in the city, a phenomenon known by locals as "Clubsterben", or "club death", threatening Berlin's reputation as the party capital of Europe and its "easyjet" tourism.
"People come to Berlin exactly to have that feeling of freedom, that whole offering of arts and culture and music," said Sabrina Boller of Astra, a club in the east of the city that says it is fighting plans by investors to build a shopping centre on the site.
"So if you take that away, why would people come here? I don't think people want to come here to have another shopping centre," she said.
Astra is not alone. Club promoters estimate that around 15 clubs are in danger of closing down due to property development and noise complaints, and many more of Berlin's 225 bars and discos are under threat.
Inside Astra, a DJ clad in a blue stegosaurus costume and shrouded in artificial smoke performs to a throng of beer-drinking clubbers, while Australian DJ Ned Kelly awaits his cue in a chintzy room offstage, reminiscing on what drew him halfway round the world to Berlin. Continued...