In the past, I’d only felt nervous outside a nightclub if I was relying on a fake ID or wearing the wrong kind of shoes. But at Berghain, the hopeful can queue for up to three hours and still be turned away from what is likely Europe’s most hallowed dancefloor, thanks to a notoriously strict door policy.
And how to get into Berlin’s most exclusive nightclub, discovers the Telegraph.
Set in a former power station in Berlin, legends are built on euphoric tales of the atmosphere within, where huge sound systems pump techno into a cavernous interior, and a 1,500-strong crowd dance themselves well into the following day.
But before the party gets started, clubbers must first get past the club’s terrifying, grim-faced gatekeeper, Sven Marquardt.
Berghain’s head doorman is a man who looks like a post-apocalyptic bearded version of Wagner, the Brazilian X Factor contestant who destroyed multiple hit songs in 2010. But rather than destroying music, Sven destroys clubbers’ dreams of getting in, with highly selective decisions on who makes the grade.
His squad of formidable bouncers have an enigmatic entry policy that clubbers have been trying to crack for years. There are hundreds of forum posts online with advice ranging from the bizarre “look more gay” to the much more reasonable “don’t be too drunk in the line”, as well as an equal number of negative reviews from disappointed punters who claim that the mysterious door policy is xenophobic, sexist, racist and discriminatory in every way imaginable.
Sven, somewhat surprisingly, is also a street photographer who, in the evenings, turns his artistic eye to curating Berghain’s crowd. According to his agent (and surely he is the world’s only bouncer to have an agent), “he seeks inspiration from the nocturnal atmosphere and meets characters that awaken his visions; he is able to discern the potential of his protagonists before they even suspect a thing.”
Many critics disagree with the somewhat flowery (if not pretentious) statement, believing Sven and his merry doormen simply reject people for their own enjoyment.
Time to start a months worth of research into how to best get in to Berghain
— Ally Cat (@AllysiaJane) February 23, 2017
The policy’s ambiguity has led bloggers to chart their own theories on how to impress the bouncers in minute detail, and some years back a German developer even proposed a cringeworthy “How to get into Berghain” app to assist would-be visitors by providing style guides and directions to the club. More recently the website BerghainTrainer.com launched, allowing would-be club goers to practise for the real event by digitally engaging with a Berghain bouncer who assesses their worthiness virtually.One thing is clear: people are desperate to get in. And on a cold night in January, I was one of them.
With the advice that I should wear black in mind, I donned my finest dark polo shirt, jeans and a nondescript jacket and set off. Despite the fact that temperatures in Berlin were dropping below 0C, I wore a rather thin jacket in the name of not appearing too showy with a more wintry number. After all, sacrifices must be made.
The venue is plonked right in the middle of an industrial estate and isn’t signposted. Low music rumbled from the club’s direction, as I passed a queue of 10 taxis waiting to ferry people home. Driver Imad al-Darwish told me he takes passengers away from the club every night, many of them upset and dejected after being refused entry at the door. According to Imad, during peak periods the taxi line can stretch far into the distance, but things tended to move along very quickly.
A man dressed in hipster-esque clothing arrived and chained his bicycle to the metal fence surrounding Berghain. He took a swig from his beer, dropped it on the ground among a sea of broken glass, then proceeded towards the club’s entrance. He got in. Others weren’t quite so lucky. I spoke to two German girls who claimed to be regulars. They were both dressed in black and in the correct age bracket – the bouncers like people who look as if they are at least in their mid-twenties, apparently. But both were refused entry after being told that their names were not on the (non-existent) guest list.