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A nightclub, music club or club, is an entertainment venue and bar that usually operates late into the night. A nightclub is generally distinguished from regular bars, pubs or taverns by the inclusion of a stage for live music, one or more dance floor areas and a DJ booth, where a DJ plays recorded music.

The upmarket nature of nightclubs can be seen in the inclusion of VIP areas in some nightclubs, for celebrities and their guests. Nightclubs are much more likely than pubs or sports bars to use bouncers to screen prospective clubgoers for entry. Some nightclub bouncers do not admit people with informal clothing or gang apparel as part of a dress code.

The busiest nights for a nightclub are Friday and Saturday night. Most clubs or club nights cater to certain music genres, such as house music or hip hop. Many clubs have recurring club nights on different days of the week. Most club nights focus on a particular genre or sound for branding effects.

In the United States, New York increasingly became the national capital for tourism and entertainment. Grand hotels were built for the upscale visitors.

New York’s theater district gradually moved northward during this half-century, from The Bowery up Broadway through Union Square and Madison Square, settling around Times Square at the end of the 19th century.

Edwin Booth and Lillian Russell were among the Broadway stars. Prostitutes served a wide variety of clientele, from sailors on leave to Playboys.

The first nightclubs appeared in New York City in the 1840s and 1850s, including McGlory’s, and the Haymarket. They enjoyed a national reputation for live music, dance, and vaudeville acts.

They tolerated unlicensed liquor, commercial sex, and gambling cards, chiefly Faro. Practically all gambling was illegal in the city (except upscale horseracing tracks), and regular payoffs to political and police leadership was necessary. Prices were high and they were patronized by an upscale audience. Timothy Gilfoyle calls him “the first nightclubs.”

By contrast, Owney Geoghegan ran the toughest nightclub in New York, 1880–83. It catered to a downscale clientele and besides the usual illegal liquor, gambling and prostitution, it featured nightly fistfights, and occasional shootings, stabbings, and police raids.

Webster Hall is credited as the first modern nightclub, being built in 1886 and starting off as a “social hall”, originally functioning as a home for dance and political activism events.

Jukebox and Prohibition

The jukebox (a coin-operated record-player) was invented in 1889 by Louis Glass and his partner William S. Arnold, who were both managers of the Pacific Phonograph Co[. The first jukebox was installed in the Palais Royale Saloon, San Francisco on 23 November 1889, becoming an overnight sensation.

The advent of the jukebox fueled the Prohibition in the United States-era boom in underground illegal Speakeasy bars, which needed music but could not afford a live band and needed precious space for paying customers.[12] Webster Hall stayed open, with rumors circulating of Al Capone‘s involvement and police bribery.

From about 1900 to 1920, working-class Americans would gather at honky tonks or juke joints to dance to music played on a piano or a jukebox. With the repeal of Prohibition in February 1933, nightclubs were revived, such as New York’s 21 Club, Copacabana, El Morocco, and the Stork Club. These nightclubs featured big bands.


Pre-World War II Soho in London offered Café society, Cabaret, Burlesque jazz, and bohemian clubs similar to those in New York, Paris & Berlin.

Nightclubs were tied very much to the idea of “high society”, via famous organizations such as the Kit-Kat Club (nightclub) (which took its name from the political Kit-Cat Club in Pall Mall, London) and the Café de Paris (London). In this era, nightclubbing was generally the preserve of those with money.

In Germany during the Golden Twenties, there was a need to dance away the memories of the First World War. In Berlin, where a “tango fever” had already swept dancing establishments in the early 1910s,

899 venues with a dancing license were registered by 1930, including the Moka Efti, Casanova, Scala, DELPHI-Palast, Kakadu, Femina-Palast, Palais am Zoo, Gourmenia-Palast, Uhlandeck and the Haus Vaterland. In the 1920s the nightlife of the city was dominated by party drugs such as cocaine.

Hundreds of venues in the city, which at the time had a sinful reputation, offered in addition to bars, stages, and dance floors also an erotic nightlife, such as small booths where lovers could withdraw to for intimate moments. These venues were aimed at rich and poor people, gays, lesbians, nudists, and gangsters alike.

In 1930’s Shanghai, the big clubs were The Paramount Club (opened in 1933) and Ciro’s (Shanghai) (opened 1936). Other clubs of the era were The Metropole, The Canidrome. Jazz bands, big bands and singers performed for a bowtied clientele.

The Paramount and Ciro’s in particular were fiercely rivalrous and attracted many customers from the underworld. Shanghai’s clubs fells into decline after the Japanese invasion of 1937 and eventually closed.

The Paramount reopened after the communist victory in 1949 as The Red Capitol Cinema, dedicated to Maoist propaganda films, before fading into obscurity. It reopened as The Paramount in 2008.

World War 2

In Occupied France, jazz and bebop music, and the jitterbug dance were banned by the Nazis as “decadent American influences”, so as an act of resistance, people met at hidden basements called discothèques where they danced to jazz and swing music, which was played on a single turntable when a jukebox was not available.

These discothèques were also patronized by anti-Vichy youth called zealous. There were also underground discothèques in Nazi Germany patronized by anti-Nazi youth called the swing kids.

.Post-WW2: Emergence of the Disc Jockey and Discotheque

The end of World War 2 saw the beginning of a transformation in the nightclub: no longer the preserve of a moneyed elite, over several decades the nightclub steadily became a mass phenomenon.

In Germany, the first discothèque on record that involved a disc jockey was Scotch-Club, which opened in 1959. Its, and therefore the world’s, first DJ was 19-year-old local cub reporter Klaus Quirini who and had been sent to write a story about the strange new phenomenon of public record-playing; fueled by whiskey, he jumped on stage and started announcing records as he played them and took the stage-name DJ Heinrich.

In Harlem, Connie’s Inn and the Cotton Club were popular venues for white audiences. Before 1953 and some years thereafter, most bars and nightclubs used a jukebox or mostly live bands.

In Paris, at a club named Le Whisky à Gogo, founded in 1947 on the rue de Seine by Paul Pacine[24][25][26], Régine Zylberberg in 1953 laid down a dance-floor, suspended colored lights and replaced the jukebox with two turntables that she operated herself so there would be no breaks between the music.

This was the world’s first-ever “discotheque”. The Whisky à Gogo set into place the standard elements of the modern post World War II discothèque-style nightclub.

By the end of the 1950s, several of the coffee bars in London’s Soho introduced afternoon dancing. These prototype discothèques were nothing like modern-day nightclubs, as they were unlicensed, daytime venues where coffee was the drink of choice and that catered to a very young public – mostly made up of French and Italians working illegally,

mostly in catering, to learn English as well as au pair girls from most of western Europe. The most famous was Les Enfants Terribles at 93 Dean St. Initially opening as a coffee-shop, it was run by Betty Passes who claimed to be the inventor of disco after she pioneered the idea of dancing to records at her premises’ basement in 1957.

It stayed popular into the 1960s. It later became a 1940s-themed club called the Black Gardenia but has since closed.

The Flamingo Club on D’Arblay Street ran between 1952 and 1967 and was famous or it role in the growth of rhythm and blues and jazz in the UK. It earned a controversial reputation with gangsters and prostitutes said to have been frequent visitors in the 1960s, along with famous musicians including The Beatles.


Discothèques appear in New York City in 1964: the Village Vanguard offered dancing between jazz sets; Shepheard’s, in the basement of the Drake Hotel, was small but popular. L’Interdit and Il Mio (at Delmonico’s) were private.

The El Morocco had an on-premises disco called Garrison, and the Stork Club had one in its Shermaine suite. Larger discos opened in 1966: Cheetah, with room for 2000 dancers, Electric Circus, and Dom.

While the discothèque swept Europe throughout the 1960s, it did not become widely popular in the United States until the 1970s, where the first rock and roll generation preferred rough and tumble bars and taverns to nightclubs until the disco era.[citation needed] In the early 1960s, Mark Birley opened a members-only discothèque nightclub, Annabel’s, in Berkeley Square, London. In 1962,

the Peppermint Lounge in New York City became popular and is the place where go-go dancing originated. Sybil Burton opened the “Arthur” discothèque in 1965 on East 54th Street in Manhattan on the site of the old El Morocco nightclub and it became the first, foremost and hottest disco in New York City through 1969.

In Germany in the 1960s, when Berlin was divided by the Wall, Munich became Germany’s epicenter of nightlife for the next two decades with numerous nightclubs and discothèques such as Big Apple, PN hit-house, Tiffany, Domicile,

Hot Club, Piper Club, Why Not, Crash, Sugar Shack, the underwater discothèque Yellow Submarine and Mrs. Henderson, where stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie went in and out and which led to artists such as Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer and Freddie Mercury settling in the city.

In 1967 Germany’s first large-scale discothèque opened in Munich as the club Blow Up, which because of its extravagance and excesses quickly gained an international reputation.

In parallel, the Hippie movement spawned Britain’s first club for psychedelic music, the UFO Club (at the Blarney Club, 31 Tottenham Court Road, London from 23 Dec 1966 to Oct 1967) which then became The Middle Earth Club (at 43 King Street) and eventually

The Roundhouse in 1968.

Both the UFO Club and Middle Earth Club were short-lived but saw performances by artists such as house-band Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention, Arthur Brown and Jimi Hendrix; DJ John Peel was a regular.

These clubs germinated what would later become the underground gig scene of the 1970s and 1980s, at venues such as 100 Club and The Clarendon in Hammersmith. During the 1960s, the Clarendon was a Country & western club, having earlier been an upmarket jazz, dining & dancing club in the pre-War era.

In the north of England, the distinct Northern Soul movement spanned Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club the Blackpool Mecca, Cleethorpes Pier[44] and The Wigan Casino, famous for the acrobatic dancing of its clubgoers each of these clubs was famous for all-nighters. 1970s: Disco

Disco has its roots in the underground club scene. During the early 1970s in New York City, disco clubs were places where oppressed or marginalized groups such as Gay people, Black people(Afroamerican), Latinos, Italian-Americans, and Jews could party without following male to female dance protocol or exclusive club policies. Discoteques had a law where for every three men, there was one woman.

The women often sought these experiences to seek safety in a venue that embraced the independent woman — with an eye to one or more of the same or opposite sex or none.

Although the culture that surrounded disco was progressive in dance couples, cross-genre music, and a push to put the physical over the rational, the role of female bodies looked to be placed in the role of safety net.It brought together people from different backgrounds.These clubs acted as safe havens for homosexual partygoers to dance in peace and away from public scrutiny.

By the late 1970s many major U.S. cities had thriving disco club scenes centered on discothèques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the dancers. The DJs played “… a smooth mix of long single records to keep people ‘dancing all night long'”.

Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music. The genre of disco has changed over the years. It is classified both as a musical genre and as a nightclub; and in the late seventies, disco began to act as a safe haven for social outcasts.

This club culture that originated in downtown New York, was attended by a variety of different ethnicities and economic backgrounds. It was an inexpensive activity to indulge in, and discos united a multitude of different minorities in a way never seen before; including those in the gay and psychedelic communities. The music ultimately was what brought people together.

Some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools that taught people how to do popular disco dances such as “touch dancing”, the “hustle” and the “cha-cha-cha“. There were also disco fashions that discothèque-goers wore for nights out at their local disco, such as sheer, flowing Halston dresses for women, and shiny polyester Qiana shirts for men. Disco clubs and “… hedonistic loft parties” had a club culture with many Italian-American, African American, gay[52] and Hispanic people.

In addition to the dance and fashion aspects of the disco club scene, there was also a thriving drug subculture, particularly for recreational drugs that would enhance the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights, such as cocaine(nicknamed “blow”), amyl nitrite “poppers“, and the “…

other quintessential 1970s club drug Quaalude, which suspended motor coordination and turned one’s arms and legs to Jell-O”. The “massive quantities of drugs ingested in discothèques by newly liberated gay men produced the next cultural phenomenon of the disco era: rampant promiscuity and public sex.

While the dance floor was the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually took place in the nether regions of the disco: bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases, the disco became a kind of “main course” in a hedonist’s menu for a night out.

During the 1980s, during the New Romantic movement, London had a vibrant nightclub scene, which included clubs like The Blitz, the Batcave, the Camden Palace and Club for Heroes. These clubs grew out of the earlier Mandrake and Billy’s (later Gossip’s)at 69 Dean Street, in the basement below the ground floor Gargoyle Club.

Both music and fashion embraced the aesthetics of the movement. Bands included Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Human League, Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Ultravox. Reggae-influenced bands included Boy George and Culture Club, and electronic vibe bands included Visage.

At London nightclubs, young men would often wear make-up and young women would wear men’s suits. Leigh Bowery‘s Taboo (which opened in 1985) bridged the New Romantic and acid house scenes.

With the birth of House music in the mid-1980s and then Acid house, kickstarted by Chris Sullivan’s The Wag Club (on the site of the earlier The Flamingo Club), a cultural revolution swept around the world; first in Chicago at the Warehouse and then London and New York City. London clubs such as Clink Street, Revolution in Progress (RiP), Philip Sallon’s The Mudd Club


Danny Rampling‘s Shoom (starting in December 1987 in the basement of Southwark’s Fitness Centre and here Andrew Weatherall played), Paul Oakenfold‘s Spectrum and Nicky Holloway‘s The Trip fused the eclecticism and ethos of Ibiza with the new electronic music from the USA.

The largest UK cities like Birmingham, Leeds (The Orbit), Liverpool (Quadrant Park and 051), Manchester (The Haçienda), Newcastle, Swansea, and several key European places like Paris (Les Bains Douches), Ibiza (Pacha), Rimini etc. also played a significant role in the evolution of clubbing, DJ culture and nightlife.

However the seismic shift in nightlife was the emergence of rave culture in the UK. A mixture of free and commercial outdoor parties were held in fields, warehouses and abandoned buildings,

by various groups such as Biology, Sunrise, Confusion, Hedonism, Rage & Energy and many others. This laid the ground for what was unfolding in the 1990s, initially in the UK, Germany & USA and then worldwide from the 2000s onwards.

1990s, 2000s and 2010s

Club DJ using digital CDJ players for mixing music

In Europe and North America, nightclubs play disco-influenced dance music such as house music, techno, and other dance music styles such as electronica, breakbeat and trance.

Most nightclubs in the U.S. major cities that have an early adulthood clientele, play hip hop, dance-pop, house and/or trance music. These clubs are generally the largest and most frequented of all of the different types of clubs.

Techno clubs are popular around the world since the early 1990s. Famous examples of the 1990s include Tresor, E-Werk and Bunker in Berlin, Omen and Dorian Gray in Frankfurt, Ultraschall, KW – Das Heizkraftwerk and Natraj Temple in Munich, Stammheim in Kassel,[83] and The Haçienda in Manchester.

The Castlemorton Common Festival in 1992 triggered the UK government’s Criminal Justice Act, which largely ended the rave movement by criminalizing any gathering of 20 or more people where music (“sounds wholly or predominantly characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”) was played. Commercial clubs immediately capitalized on the situation causing a boom in “Superclubs” in the UK, such as the Ministry of Sound (London), Renaissance, and Cream (Liverpool).

These developed the club-as-spectacle theme pioneered in the 1970s & 1980s by Pacha (Ibiza) and Juliana’s Tokyo (Japan), creating a global phenomenon; however, many clubs such as The Cross (nightclub) in London, preserved the more underground feel of the former era.Since the late 2000s, two venues that received particularly high media attention were Berghain in Berlin and Fabric in London.

In some languages, nightclubs are also referred to as “discos” or “discothèques” (German: Disko or Diskothek (outdated; nowadays: Club); French: discothèque; Italian, Portuguese and Spanish: Discoteca, antro (common in Mexico), and boliche (common in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), discos is commonly used in all others in Latinamerica).

he term night is used to refer to an evening focusing on a specific genre, such as “retro music night” or a “singles night.” In Hong Kong and China, a nightclub is used as a euphemism for a hostess club, and the association of the term with the sex trade has driven out the regular usage of the term.

Video art has been used in nightclubs since the 1960s, but especially with the rise of electronic dance music since the late 1980s VJing gained more and more importance. VJs (“video jockeys”) mix video content in a similar manner that DJs mix audio content, creating a visual experience that is intended to complement the music.

Many nightclubs use bouncers to choose who can enter the club, or specific lounges or VIP areas. Some nightclubs have one group of bouncers to screen clients for entry at the main door, and then other bouncers to screen for entry to other dance floors, lounges or VIP areas.

For legal reasons, in most jurisdictions, the bouncers have to check ID to ensure that prospective patrons are of legal drinking age and that they are not intoxicated already. In this respect, a nightclub’s use of bouncers is no different from the use of bouncers by pubs and sports bars.

However, in some nightclubs, bouncers may screen patrons using criteria other than just age and intoxication status, such as dress code, guest list inclusion, and physical appearance.


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