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Berlin Nightclub closes after nearly 40 years, following boycott
Decades of Photo Archives below
by Kayleigh Padar
2023-11-21

This article shared 6415 times since Tue Nov 21, 2023
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After nearly forty years, Berlin Nightclub, 954 W. Belmont Ave., officially closed its doors Nov. 19 following a months-long fight between its owners and unionized workers.

Owners Jim Schuman and Jo Webster officially announced Berlin Nightclub's closure Nov. 21 on its Instagram, citing operating costs.

"The expenses of increased security, insurance and licensing, equipment, rent and more cannot be overestimated and we could not imagine morphing the bar into a bottle service, VIP area venue," the post read. "So the doors are locked."

Berlin's workers unionized in April with UNITE HERE Local 1 with the goal of advocating for better working conditions, increased wages and healthcare benefits.Schuman and Webster repeatedly said it would be too costly to meet workers' demands.

Workers announced a boycott of Berlin Nightclub Oct. 26. Since then, drag performers have canceled their shows at the club in support of the workers' efforts to secure their first contract. The workers had already staged a strike in August as well.

In an open letter published in October, Schuman and Webster warned the nightclub struggled to recover from the workers' initial strike Aug. 4-5 and might not survive the boycott.

"As we rent our space, Berlin has high fixed costs and we can ill afford to lose a sold-out weekend in the summer or continue to operate with such uncertainty," the letter read.

Since opening in 1983, Berlin developed a reputation for being a safe haven for people who aren't accepted in mainstream LGBTQ+ clubs—like trans people, lesbians and the BIPOC community—by welcoming a variety of performers and celebrating marginalized identities.

"It was a remarkable tornado of talented performers and staff, inspired friends and customers, a crazy location and a lot of dreams," Berlin Nightclub's farewell Instagram post reads.

UNITE HERE Local 1 organizers said it was wrong for Schuman and Webster to decide to "permanently and abruptly close this historic institution," according to the union's Instagram.

"Our union campaign was always centered around creating a Berlin that is better for the workers, better for the artists and performers, better for the patrons and better for the community," the post read.

A high rate of staff turnover due to low wages created an environment that felt unsafe and made it difficult for people to "put their roots down" and "put work into the space," unionized worker Jolene Saint said last month.

"If clubs or institutions like Berlin, that purport themselves to be pillars of the LGBTQ+ community, want to say they're havens for the community, then they need to take care of the community," Saint said when the October boycott was first announced.

When negotiating for their contract, workers asked to be paid more than minimum wage and to receive free healthcare benefits. But, Schuman and Webster said these changes would be too expensive and cost more than a half million dollars in the first year of the contract.

"It would be nice to pay the employees what the union wants," the owners said in their October open letter."Unfortunately, agreeing to the union's demands will make Berlin non-competitive, and result in a large increase of costs to our customers, causing Berlin's patrons to go to other venues."

Union organizers said in Nov. 21 they made it clear that they were willing to negotiate in good faith in order to reach an agreement that was financially practical for the business, according to the post.

"We continue to believe that businesses that refuse to value our work above minimum wage do not belong in our community," the post read. "They cannot survive because we know our worth.

"While we are sad that Jim and Jo have made this decision, we know that our community is resilient, creative and capable of dreaming things into its place."

UNITE HERE LOCAL 1's full statement is here: www.instagram.com/p/Cz6ssdvrfY5/ .

Berlin Nightclub owners Jim Schuman and Jo Webster's open letter is here: berlinchicago.com/union.

Berlin Nightclub's farewell Instagram post can be found here: www.instagram.com/p/Cz7Gym4vbgT/ .


CELEBRATING BERLIN

A collection of Berlin Photos dating back decades.
Photos from the Windy City Times and Nightspots Archives.


2001-07-18
Cess Poole Circus at Berlin



2001-07-18
Cess Poole Circus at Berlin



2001-07-25
1. Cherish and pals at Berlin.



2001-07-25
1. Cherish and pals at Berlin.



2003-01-15



2003-01-15



2003-01-15



2003-01-15



2003-01-15



2003-03-26



2003-04-23



2003-04-23



2003-04-23



2003-04-23



2003-06-11



2003-07-23



2003-08-13



2003-08-20



2003-09-10



2003-10-08



2003-10-29



2003-11-12



2003-11-12



2003-12-31



2004-01-14



2004-01-21



2004-01-21



2004-02-11



2004-02-11



2004-02-11



2004-03-03



2004-03-03



2004-03-10



2004-03-10



2004-03-24



2004-03-24



2004-03-24



2004-03-31



2004-04-14



2004-04-21



2004-05-12



2004-05-12



2004-05-12



2004-05-12



2004-05-19



2004-06-16



2004-08-25



2004-09-29



2005-01-19



2005-02-09



2005-02-16



2005-02-23



2005-02-23



2005-02-23



2005-03-02



2005-03-02



2005-03-16



2005-03-16



2005-03-16



2005-03-16



2005-05-11



2005-05-18



2005-06-01



2005-06-01



2005-07-13



2005-07-13



2005-07-13



2005-07-13



2005-07-13



2005-07-13



2005-07-20



2005-08-03



2005-08-03



2005-09-07



2005-09-07



2005-09-07



2005-09-07



2005-09-07



2005-09-14



2005-09-14



2005-10-26



2005-11-23



2005-11-23



2005-11-23



2005-11-23



2005-11-23



2005-11-23



2005-12-07



2005-12-07



2005-12-07



2005-12-07



2005-12-07



2005-12-07



2005-12-07



2005-12-28



2006-01-04



2006-03-08



2006-04-19



2006-05-17



2006-06-21



2006-07-19



2006-08-16



2006-08-16



2006-08-16



2006-08-16



2006-08-16



2007-02-21



2007-03-28



2007-06-13



2007-06-13



2007-06-13



2007-06-13



2007-06-13



2007-06-20



2007-06-20



2007-06-20



2007-07-04



2007-10-03



2007-10-24



2008-05-07



2008-05-14



2008-09-10



2008-10-22



2008-10-22



2008-11-26



2009-03-11



2009-04-08



2009-11-11



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-01-20



2010-07-07



2010-09-15
Kirk NOT licking Scissor Sister Jake Shears at Berlin. With Michael Margarito-Martinez Gondick at Parlour.



2010-09-15
Kirk NOT licking Scissor Sister Jake Shears at Berlin. With Michael Margarito-Martinez Gondick at Parlour.



2010-10-13
With CJ at STARDUST's 2nd anniversary at Berlin. With Ruben down InnExile way.



2010-10-13
With CJ at STARDUST's 2nd anniversary at Berlin. With Ruben down InnExile way.



2010-12-22
Kirk Williamson with Jake Shears at Berlin.



2011-10-26
Nightspots' newest addition AK Miller and I momenting at Berlin



2011-12-21
With Jake Shears at Berlin.



2012-07-04
Running with scissors, Berlin. Photos by Pubert



2012-12-12
Happy birthday, Berlin. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2012-12-19
Giving Oscar a pick-him-up at Berlin.



2013-07-10
Sir Elton John. Photo by Alex J. Berliner



2013-10-02
MAIN COVER IMAGE From Berlin's Vogue For Tots V. Photo by Kirk



2013-11-06
Multi-media installation at Berlin shows bar's commitment to art. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2013-11-06
Cazwell among counterculture superstars who have performed at Berlin. Photos by Kirk Williamson and DJ Greg Haus for Nightspots



2013-11-06
God-Des and She among counterculture superstars who have performed at Berlin in the past few years. Photos by Kirk Williamson and DJ Greg Haus for Nightspots



2013-11-06
SSION among counterculture superstars who have performed at Berlin in the past few years. Photos by Kirk Williamson and DJ Greg Haus for Nightspots



2013-12-25
With Stuart at Berlin, probably talking about how old we are.



2014-02-19
MAIN COVER IMAGE Glow friend at Berlin. Photo by Kirk



2014-04-02
Photos by Jerry Nunn



2014-05-28
Photos by Kirk



2014-06-25
Photos by Kirk



2014-07-23
Photos by Marc Ruttenberg (courtesy of Greg Haus)



2014-09-17
Photos by Kirk



2014-10-01
Photos by Kirk



2014-12-24
Jenae's back in town at Berlin.



2015-01-21
MAIN COVER IMAGE One of Jojo Baby's creatures at Berlin. Photo by Kirk



2015-02-04
Photos by Kyle Henderson



2015-02-18
Photos by Kyle Henderson



2015-03-04
Berlin. Photos by Kyle Henderson



2015-03-18
BERLIN Red rum with Madame Envy and her Harem of Oddities. Photos by Kirk



2015-05-27
Berlin. Photos by Jerry Nunn



2015-08-05
Berlin kicks off Lollapalooza. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-08-05
Berlin kicks off Lollapalooza. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-08-05
Berlin kicks off Lollapalooza. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-08-05
Berlin kicks off Lollapalooza. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-08-26
BERLIN Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-08-26
BERLIN Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-08-26
BERLIN Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-08-26
BERLIN Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-10-21
Berlin: After-Peaches. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-10-21
Berlin: After-Peaches. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-10-21
Berlin: After-Peaches. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-10-21
Berlin: After-Peaches. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2015-11-11
Berlin. Potos by Kirk Williamson



2015-11-11
Berlin. Potos by Kirk Williamson



2015-11-11
Berlin. Potos by Kirk Williamson



2015-11-11
Berlin. Potos by Kirk Williamson



2015-11-11
Berlin. Potos by Kirk Williamson



2015-11-11
Berlin. Potos by Kirk Williamson



2015-12-23
Berlin. Post-vogue For Tots, Thu., December 17. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-12-23
Berlin. Post-vogue For Tots, Thu., December 17. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-12-23
Berlin. Post-vogue For Tots, Thu., December 17. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2015-12-23
Berlin. Post-vogue For Tots, Thu., December 17. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2016-02-27
Tangerine. Photo from Stephanie Berlin



2016-03-23
At Berlin, Stardust presents Lucky Charms with Amanda Lepore, Thu., March 17. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2016-03-23
At Berlin, Stardust presents Lucky Charms with Amanda Lepore, Thu., March 17. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2016-03-23
At Berlin. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2016-03-23
At Berlin. Photo by Kirk Williamson



2016-04-06
Trannika's Most Wanted: Tyrannosaurus Wrecked!



2016-04-27
All Geeks: Gotta Catch 'Em All



2016-07-27
Photo from 2014 by Kirk Williamson



2016-11-23
Berlin's Anniversary Party: InFocus



2017-03-15
Amanda Lepore shows off her Lucky Charms. Amanda Lepore (right) with DJ Greg Haus at Berlin. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2017-04-05
Cynthia Plaster Caster and Wax Trax worker at Wax Trax anniversary at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Sara Andrews. Photos by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-07-12
Photo by Jerry Nunn



2017-08-10
Lollapalooza Sideshow party. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2017-08-10
Lollapalooza Sideshow party. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2017-08-10
Lollapalooza Sideshow party. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2017-08-10
Lollapalooza Sideshow party. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2017-08-10
Lollapalooza Sideshow party. Photos by Kirk Williamson



2019-03-07
Robyn performs at Aragon Ballroom, fans continue the party at Berlin. Photos by Jerry Nunn.



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2019-03-07
Robyn fans continue the party at Berlin. Photo by Jerry Nunn



2021-12-30
Ren McConville, general manager at Berlin Nightclub. Photo provided by McConville



2022-10-02
Berlin logo



2022-10-02
Berlin Nightclub's statement on Twitter



2023-10-31
Supporters hold signs urging people to boycott Berlin Oct. 25. Photo By Unite Here Local 1



2023-10-31
Jolene Saint speaks at Oct. 25 rally, urging customers to boycott Berlin Nightclub. Photo By Unite Here Local 1



2023-10-31
Supporters urge customers to boycott Berlin Oct 25. Photo By Unite Here Local 1



2023-11-16
Berlin Nightclub employee and union member Maya Vadell speaking at Nov. 15 rally. Photo by Carrie Maxwell



2023-11-21
Performer Sara Andrews entertains the crowd at Berlin in this 2017 photo. Photo by Jerry Nunn.



2024-02-23
Pussy Riot and Lyubov Sobol (without mask) hold banners at protest at the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Pussy Riot

This article shared 6415 times since Tue Nov 21, 2023
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