Berlin nightclubs slowly reopen post-pandemic; vaccination, negative COVID-19 test a must for entry

Performers, guests and owners said they were excited to be open again. But standing about outside with a drink isn’t really clubbing, those attending reopened clubs conceded over the weekend.

The Associated Press May 24, 2021 11:57:16 IST
Berlin nightclubs slowly reopen post-pandemic; vaccination, negative COVID-19 test a must for entry

This Saturday 22 May, 2021 taken photo shows people sitting at the 'Wilde Renate' beer garden in Berlin, Germany. (Photo via The Associated Press/Dorothee Thiesing)

Battered by the pandemic, Berlin’s legendary nightclubs are starting to reopen. Sort of.

Several of the German capital’s nightspots have managed a limited restart along with pubs and restaurants over the weekend.

Clubs are opening their outdoor spaces to guests only as beer gardens or for small concerts and performances, provided the party people present a negative COVID-19 test or a vaccination certificate. But the days of hammering beats, pumping basslines and expressively dressed patrons dancing until early morning are still shut down in one of the global hot spots of vibrant nightlife.

Pamela Schobess represents the interests of Berlin club, party and cultural event organisers as a member of the board of the Berliner Club Commission. “We are allowed to do gastronomy at the moment, so we can have beer gardens and things like that. We can also do small concerts, but everything seated, everything with distance, with mask and hygiene rules,” she said.

“It’s a start, but it’s not club culture,” Schobess said.

Performers, guests and owners said they were excited to be open again. But standing about outside with a drink isn’t really clubbing, those attending reopened clubs conceded over the weekend. Many are still hoping that infection numbers will continue to decline and the vaccination campaign will go forward to be able to also hold outdoor events with dancing soon.

At the Wilde Renate club, the disco ball swung outside in the late afternoon sunlight. For patrons like Konstantin Karl, 24, who stopped in on Saturday night, better than nothing.

“It’s definitely a strange feeling, it’s been a really long time, “ he said. ”Of course I’m happy that you can do something again, and get out again for once.”

Drag queen Cupcake, who is originally from Lebanon and came to Berlin since 2017, had to perform outside but savoured the opportunity: “Everyone is excited about going out, I mean, I went out yesterday (Friday).”

Xenia Abena Wiederkehr, events manager at the Wilde Renate club, said that the partial opening “is very important to us. First of all, it’s just nice to be able to do something as a team again. Secondly, our club is not only a club, but also a platform, we work with collectives that do parties, but also performances."

“And the platform just disappeared during the pandemic, and now that we can open the beer garden again, that’s also possible again.”

Representatives of the club scene have welcomed the German parliament’s decision on May 7 that clubs and live venues with a demonstrable cultural connection will no longer be defined as places of entertainment, like brothels or gambling halls, but as cultural venues.

“The categorisation now as cultural facilities opens a lot more possibilities,” Schobess said. “We can also open clubs more or less in all regions of the cities in the future. And it is, of course, a great recognition for the work we do.”

Schobess says that clubs do cultural work that is just as valuable as that of theatres or opera houses — and that this now is finally being recognised.

The question remains as to when clubbers will be able to party in clubs the way they used to.

Schobess explained that club culture at a distance is practically impossible indoors, and that owners need a solution that will only be possible once infections numbers have significantly dropped and vaccination numbers clearly increased.

“Club culture only works without distance. And that’s where we need to get to,” Schobess said.

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