Lakeview’s Berlin Nightclub closes after 40 years, citing increased expenses

Berlin Nightclub, a longtime staple of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, announced their permanent closure after approximately 40 years of operation.

Initially opening in 1983, the nightclub treasured by Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community closed for the final time early Sunday morning, with ownership citing increased expenses with security, equipment, rent and insurance, among other costs.

“The final chapter will surely be written by the essayists, the journalists, and memorialized in tribute events and documentaries but the magic that happened at 954 W. Belmont will never be recreated. It couldn’t be. It was a remarkable tornado of talented performers and staff, inspired friends and customers, a crazy location and a lot of dreams,” a statement on Berlin’s website said.

The statement added that the bar could not morph into a “bottle service, VIP area venue,” to offset costs, contributing to its closure.

Though Berlin’s latest statement cited growing expenses, a statement on Berlin’s website last month shed light on stalled negotiations between the nightclub’s ownership and unionized employees, who elected union representation following the nightclub’s reopening after COVID-19 mandated shutdowns.

In the statement, the nightclub’s ownership described the impact on business from employees picketing earlier this summer amid deadlocked talks on a contract.

“When some of Berlin’s unionized workers went on strike and picketed on August 4th and 5th, we were shocked. Our entertainers and many of our staff were asked not to perform. 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 statement said.

Berlin’s statement announcing the nightclub’s closure made no mention of union negotiations.

“We hope you made some memories with us and that you smile when they visit you. The first ads in 1983 announced Berlin to the Neighborhood Bar of the Future. Unfortunately, the future is now and it’s time for us to go home,” Berlin’s closure statement said.

The nightclub started a Facebook page titled the “Berlin Nightclub Chicago Archive,” where past patrons are sharing photos of their memories inside.