18.08.2022, Berlin: Während eines Rundgangs durch die Berliner Clubkultur leuchtet eine Diskokugel im Club Golden Gate. Die Clubcommssion Berlin hat dazu eingeladen. (zu dpa: «Berliner Clubcommission: Wir gucken mit Angst auf den Herbst») Foto: Annette Riedl/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Queues in front of the clubs, people partying on the trams and streets. Anyone out and about in the capital at the weekend can get the impression that cultural life has survived the corona crisis. The shops are open and there are events on every corner. But behind it hides a deep crisis, many club operators fear for their existence.

“At the moment there is an oversupply,” says Pamela Schobeß, first chairwoman of the club commission. But that’s no reason to calm down. Most of the current events were planned before the pandemic – based on the costs expected at the time. Then they had to be postponed, sometimes several times.

Today, however, the actual costs are many times higher than in 2019. However, the tickets were sold a long time ago, and the money earned had to be invested in the crisis.

It could get worse. Ticket sales “imploded,” says Robin Schellenberg, who sits on the board of the club commission. “People go out less often.” If the organizers now increase their ticket prices in order to be able to cover their costs, there is a risk of a downward spiral, as demand could continue to fall.

Added to this is the massive shortage of staff. Many former workers have not returned after the lockdowns. “We’ve lost people to the Rewe checkout,” says Robin Schellenberg, who runs the Klunkerkranich in Neukölln. During the corona crisis, many night owls discovered the advantages of a comparatively boring but secure job. Now the cost of living keeps rising due to inflation. That gives many people the final impetus to look for a new job.

The result: the club operators compete for a shrinking pool of skilled workers. This includes not only bar staff and bouncers, i.e. the visible people of nightlife, but also, for example, designers, builders or cleaning staff. They are all essential to keep the party going. “Even Berghain has had to place job ads,” says Schellenberg. That was unthinkable before Corona.

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There could be lockdowns again in the fall. Big clubs might survive that. But the small, subcultural shops are particularly affected. These small clubs are particularly important for the city culture, as an “experimental field” and free space they play an important role in the open, democratic society.

However, autumn could bring another strain on the scene. If energy prices rise sharply, club operators will have to pay more for electricity and heating.

But more devastating could be the effect high household bills are having on purchasing power. “Then people save on going out,” Schobess suspects.