Who might have guessed that the best place to turn for an informative article on the state of the nightlife scene in Europe would be The Economist? Yet that turns out to be exactly the case with an intriguing story that analyzes the reasons why European clubs seem to be in a downward spiral. The article offers up a lot of scary statistics that seem to prove things are on the decline among dance clubs, saying “Between 2001 and 2011 the number of discotheken in the Netherlands fell by 38%. In Britain there were 3,144 clubs in 2005 but only 1,733 ten years later,” and that’s just for starters
What’s it all about? Well the story brings up a few possibilities, including the decrease in use of intoxicating substances among young people (not exactly conducive to a healthy club scene, let’s face it), the ongoing issue of gentrification in cities that once sported club-friendly areas but are now full of noise-sensitive neighbors, and politicians cracking down on clubs by getting stricter about codes and getting pickier about who they issue licenses to.
Partly this is because most European cities are becoming nicer to live in. “Even in Berlin it is harder to find an unused space in the inner city,” sighs Sven von Thülen, a DJ who has compiled an oral history of clubbing. Clubs are being pushed farther out. Increasing rents are also a problem, says Lutz Leichsenring of the Club Commission, a German industry body, especially in places such as London where property values have soared.
Gentrification can muffle the high-decibel economy. “If there’s one complaint, then the whole circus starts,” says Eelko Anceaux of De Marktkantine, one of the handful of clubs that bucked the trend and opened in Amsterdam in 2014. It is possible to build good relations with neighbours, he says; his night club, like many new ones, doubles as a restaurant and hosts vintage markets, which makes it more acceptable to nearby yuppie families. Even so, middle-class residents’ complaints about noise and drunk or stoned revellers make the life of a club-owner far trickier.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The article goes on to explain that some places have created a new “night mayor” position, designating nightlife industry advocates to help keep the club scene from falling apart. Anybody want a job?