Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Berghain's exclusivity is legendary. And a new app isn't going to help you past the velvet ropes.
The stiff door policy at Berlin nightclub Berghain is the stuff of legend. Widely dubbed Europe's hippest place to dance since it opened in 2007, the converted power station and its tattoo-faced doormen have a reputation for being pickier about who they let in than the average Victorian-era duchess planning an At Home day.
But for those turned away, "help" is on the way. A new app, plainly titled "How to Get Into Berghain," has just been unveiled at Berlin’s Hackathon. In addition to the basics, like directions and DJ line-ups, it has a style section showing what clothes aspiring Berghain visitors should wear and where to buy them online. For what it's worth, the app's doorman-pleasing sartorial recommendation is to wear what looks like standard issue hipster gear, just mainly in black.
Flimsy it may be, but the forthcoming app (which has yet to be released) demonstrates the strong hold Berghain has on European clubbers. When people talk about Berlin as a city for nightlife, Berghain is often what they have in mind. A towering old cavern of a building in Berlin's East, it would have probably become an art gallery in any other city.
In nightclub form, it looks like a sort of techno Valhalla, all elegantly raw concrete and lofty, beamed vaults. The walls themselves seem to vibrate with the noise of a sound system that makes the average PA in, say, London, sound utterly lacking. All this rakes in cash and tourists, and people fly in from across the continent to visit weekly.
Despite this popularity, Berghain has managed to hold onto its cool reputation while other super clubs across Europe have shut down or gone out of fashion. This is partly because its music policy has strict quality control and partly because its door policy has prevented its initial anything-goes mixed-gay crowd from being scared off. Which means there's still plenty of attitude to be endured at the entrance.
This is, alas, where the app goes horribly wrong. The sort of people who've dutifully donned what they think are exactly the right items of clothing to secure entrance are in fact the club's worst nightmare. As a not particularly stylish person who used to visit Berghain regularly, I would say the real guidelines for getting in are pretty basic: Don't dress too smartly or showily – this is not the Berlin way – and don't look like any louche behavior going on in corners is going to freak you out. It also helps if you don't speak loudly in a British accent, as the British have earned themselves a local reputation as giggling, aggressive prudes. Finally, you might consider copying many locals and coming on Sunday afternoon, when the staff have mellowed somewhat. The thought of being surveyed and found wanting is understandably still enough to deter many, of course. Perhaps some readers who have made it this far are wondering if there's an app that shows you how to get out.