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It's official—Germany declares its nightclubs are now cultural institutions

Nightlife and live music venues across the country now have the same legal status as museums and opera houses

Germany has voted to reclassify its nightclubs as cultural institutions © Antoine Julien / Unsplash

German federal parliament voted today to reclassify its clubs and live events venues as "cultural institutions". Previously considered entertainment venues, alongside brothels and casinos, they are now granted the same legal status as museums and opera houses and accordingly will be afforded protections that will make them less vulnerable to gentrification.

Today's vote, which approved a motion passed almost unanimously on Wednesday by the federal housing and urban development committee, is the result of a 15-month-long campaign launched by Clubcommission, a collective of club owners and supporters. It lobbied parliament last year to fight against rising incidences of clubsterben, or club death in Germany.

Arguing for the vital role clubs play in German society, the commission found that last year Berlin alone drew in an estimated 3 million tourists who came to visit its clubs, generating €1.5bn for the local economy. Around 100 Berlin clubs have closed in the past decade and a further 25 are "under threat" due to urban development and noise complaints.

The reclassification will now help safeguard them from further displacement, allowing them to operate in more parts of the city and entitling them to tax breaks. According to a document released by LiveKomm (the Federal Association of Music Venues in Germany), these protections will only be granted to nightclubs that can prove they have a "cultural purpose".

In November, Germany's highest financial court ruled to lower the amount of value added tax (VAT) paid by Berlin clubs—including Berghain, which transformed itself into an art gallery over the pandemic— from 19% to 7%.

Caren Lay, a politician for the left-wing party Die Linke who spearheaded a cross-coalition campaign in parliament to ratify the bill, says in an Instagram post that this is an "important first step" to enshrining club culture alongside the country's other art forms such as visual art and theatre. But she adds there is still "a long way to go" to ensure Germany's nightlife can survive the "pressures of rising rents and development".

Pamela Schobeß, the chief executive of LiveKomm says in a statement: “Music clubs are cultural institutions that shape the identity of city districts as an integral part of cultural and economic life. Now an outdated law is to be adapted to reality. This helps to keep cities and neighbourhoods alive and liveable and to protect cultural places from displacement.”