During the last months, the topic of club extrusion and club decline has been getting a lot of attention in society and the respective communication channels. An extrusion by the proprietor can be effected through change of utilization of the rented area, through extreme rent increase or a planned reconstruction of the area on which the club has vitalized its location for years. During the last decades, the commercially oriented real estate lobby has been a massive factor of obstruct-ion and alteration, not the least to the Berlin culture scene. Only a few venues are able to continue running as electronic music clubs in their original form after their extrusion, because they moved to protected spaces with the help of generous providers of capital or because they bought a plot and became permanent residents.
With the beginning of the Easy Jet age, the Club from Berlin became a lucrative trademark of the city. Due to its abundance of facets, Berlin grew into the most popular event area for clubbers from all over the world. On a political level, a club as an economic factor is managed in the respective senate administration and not in the area of cultural affairs. The music business is a major economic branch, but it does not hold sufficient interest for the real estate sector.
The Berlin Clubcommission is a strong partner at the side of club culture in its functions as mouthpiece, mediator and advisor, and it is able to accomplish remarkable feats by means of professional poise and good connections to Berlin culture politics. The example of the club „Griessmuehle Neukölln“ – where some of the most exciting events like Cocktail D’Amore, Tekknozid or Slave To The Rave have been taking place for ten years now – proves how it can be done.
The contract for the club was not renewed, and month long talks with the proprietor about the perspectives of the club location were inconsequential or delayed. Since even a successful and well estab-lished club like the Griessmuehle could not pull a new location out of the hat, the danger of shutting down this enterprise was imminent. The city district of Neukölln has experienced an enormous influx of young people during the last decade and reflects the Zeitgeist of a multicultural community, therefore the extrusion of a social space like this club would have been very deplorable.
The club Griessmuehle devised a petition, and in a very short time, more than 32000 persons joined the cause with their signature to keep the club location, others forwarded the petition or donated some amounts to support the efforts of the club. On Wednesday 22nd of January, a peaceful and media effective demonstration was held outside the Neukölln city hall with participating speakers from political parties, the Clubcommission and the Griessmuehle. Before that, a proposal to keep the Griessmuehle was dealt with by the Berlin parliament.
“The representatives have voted unanimously with the votes of SPD, CDU, The Green Party and the Left Party to keep the Griessmuehle– FDP and AfD abstented from voting. This is the first time that the re-presentatives of the Berlin city government have favoured the preser-vation of a club by an act of parliament. Now, the senate is summo-ned to carry out talks with the proprietor SIAG Property II GmbH in order to keep the Griessmuehle at their location or, if necessary, to find a replacement area owned by the federal state of Berlin.” (translated from Source: Groove Magazine)
A short time later, the long-awaited dialogue with the proprietor, represented by the S IMMO Germany GmbH, could take place. The feedback was positive. As a quick fix, temporary solutions were found thanks to the support of other institutions of the city, and the club can continue at a different location. The entire action is not only a historical marking point, but it shows that – through solidarity, through public involvement, through resistance against seemingly unchangeable real estate politics of the proprietors – something is emerging which basically points towards a positive tendency. I hope that the example of the Griessmuehle will catch on in future cases when club culture is endangered by gentrification and club culture locations become pawns in the hands of speculators. Actually, it would be a simple affair for the companies themselves to participate in preserving and supporting culture and its people by means of endowment funds.
Take the examples of the Golden Pudel Club in Hamburg or the club Kater Blau, formerly Bar 25, in Berlin Friedrichshain. The Pudel Club located in the Hafenstraße in Sankt Pauli has been reflecting the soul of the district and its inhabitants for many decades. Due to its proximity to the alternative culture of Hamburg, the club has also played an important historical role in the electronic dance culture of the city. DJs like Helena Hauff, Nick Höppner, Efdemin or the group Fraktus, around its initiator King Rocko Schamoni, stocked up here on the basic values for their musical and artistic creations.
Unfortunately, it’s nothing new that gentrification swallows the weak and small club runners. But even a comparatively large club location like the Griessmuehle with its many hundreds of guests from mid-week to Sunday at noon has problems in finding a property for the next years. Club decline is not only a topic in Berlin, and at the federal level, the Left Party and the Green Party are trying to exert pressure so that the institution of the club will gain higher signifi-cance and recognition as a cultural establishment. This would enable support in the range of noise protection and also create better condi-tions for club operations in regard to building law and rent law.
The cultural community and the politics of Berlin have given an important sign for the future of club culture. The course is set for keeping the Techno club in Berlin and against club decline. For various reasons, it will not be possible often enough to save a location – but it’s always worthwhile to set an example and to commit yourself to sustaining the free spaces of electronic music culture!
Kay-Uwe Lenk *DASFAX | Techno Berlin