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Culture

A New Berlin Nightclub Tries the Glam Approach

At the opening of the Goya Club in Berlin, only celebrities and some 2,000 investors who'd bought a 4,000 euro ($4,686) share package were getting past the doorman. Even in dressed-down Berlin, fun no longer comes cheap.

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Bring on the Cristal!

Berlin nightlife has long been legendary. From its status as a haven of subculture in the 1980s to the techno boom of the early 90s and its reinvention as a hip, 21st century European capital, it’s never failed to reflect the zeitgeist -- and since the fall of the Wall, that's been a studied bohemia that never wants to look like it's trying too hard.

The financial crisis of the last several years has only made Berlin more anti-glam than ever. If you want to climb through holes in fences to get to that achingly fashionable illegal bar, this is definitely the place to be. Clubbers are spoilt for choice in Berlin, but if there's always been one thing missing, it's been the sort of in-your-face, Cristal and bling culture that's so easy to find in other cities. No one here ever splashes out 500 euros on cocktails, the way they do in London or New York after a hard week in the City.

But the times may be a-changing, because Thursday night saw the sort of high-octane society event Berlin has traditionally sneered at.

Club Goya Berlin, Großbild

The opening extravanga

Paying their way

The extravaganza that took place on Nollendorf Platz was the opening of the capital's newest watering hole, the much trumpeted Goya Club, an ambitious project that's been four years in development and which cost an estimated 11 million euros. It's housed in an imposing Wilhelminian-era building designed in 1906 by architect Albert Fröhlich, which was home to a theater before morphing into the landmark Metropol, a slice of West Berlin tradition that had its heyday as a cutting-edge nightspot in the 1980s.

Revamped by internationally renowned architect Hans Kollhoff, who obviously doesn't believe that less is more, it's now all black leather sofas, cavernous white interiors and opulent, Baroque chandeliers. Its earlier incarnation as a theater is still apparent, with the two balconies overlooking the dance-floor reserved for VIPs.

And there isn't likely to be any shortage of them. What makes the Goya Club unusual -- and also attests to Berlin's dire financial straits -- is that it's invited its target clientele to become shareholders. Even more surprisingly, they've accepted in droves, among them local celebrities such as actor Dominic Raacke, artist Markus Lüpertz, soccer trainer Falko Götz and businessman Heiner Kamps -- whose investment ensures them life-long free entry and access to the VIP area.

Fabled frugality

Club Goya Berlin, Eröffnungsparty

The good things in life aren't free

Without financial assistance amounting to some 7.75 million euros from these investors, the Goya would never have got off the ground. But with start capital of 10 million euros, owner Peter Glückstein has been able to realize an over-the-top vision that flies in the face of Berlin's fabled frugality.

But will the concept prove successful? After all, the average annual income in Berlin is just over 16,000 euros, compared to 29,000 euros in Munich and 24,000 euros in Hamburg, two cities with far more of a time-honored glitterati culture than the capital.

Avant garde it isn't. At the opening party, one consequence of getting the guests to be the financiers was immediately apparent, with most of the crowd comfortably over 40 years old. In Glückman's own words, Goya's denizens are likely to be "too old for techno, too young for tea dances."

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