If anyone asks you what you did that one time in Berlin, you can now say you were experiencing high culture – even if said culture was happening in the dark rooms of Berghain. And you wouldn't be lying, Germany has officially declared that clubs and live music venues will be recognized as cultural institutions.
According to the Live Musik Kommission, an almost unanimous vote on Wednesday, 5th May, declared in favor of the recommendation to change the status of nightclubs and live venues from entertainment sites to cultural sites.
The news follows a year-long campaign by activists, club owners, and supporters. At the federal level, a coalition of cross-political parties, including the Greens, The Left, the Free Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and the CDU/CSU, got together to form the Parliamentary Forum Club Culture and Nightlife at the German Bundestag (parliament).
The Forum appeared in parliament in Berlin last year to argue that clubs were "the pulse of the city," annually attracting around 3 million tourists and contributing €1.5 billion (approximately $1.8 billion) to the local economy.
“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She continued: “Now an outdated law is to be adapted to reality.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 neighborhoods alive and liveable, and to protect cultural places from displacement.”
Having been previously classified as "entertainment venues" alongside brothels, arcades, and casinos, the change in legal status will protect certain nightclubs in the German capital from gentrification, and means they will be permitted to open in more parts of the city as well as benefit from tax breaks.
For over a year, Berlin’s nightlife scene has been ravaged by the pandemic. With the future of clubbing secured, venues will finally be able to rest easy knowing they will be protected from displacement even as clubbing stands still. So no need to host any further desperate pandemic fashion shows to remain relevant, Berghain.
The news is especially relevant for smaller clubs, which live in the shadow of the larger more well-known, and well-connected Berghain. Many such clubs have already been forced to shutter, this decision gives those remaining a fighting chance.