Nightclubs, also referred to as simply ‘the club’ or a music club is usually a bar or venue for entertainment purposes that operates at night. What sets a nightclub apart from an average bar, tavern or pub is the commonly found stage used for live bands, a dance floor, and depending on the nightclub a DJ booth. Some nightclubs have multiple dance floors as well, to support a larger crowd. Additionally, many nightclubs offer a VIP section for a more quality experience, often catering to celebrities and guests who want it all.
A nightclub is more commonly known for positioning bouncers at the door, approving who is allowed inside. Whereas, sports bars and taverns generally have bouncers walking around inside the location to keep watch over the crowd. Depending on the location, bouncers may be instructed to deny based on age alone or based on a person’s clothing (formal or informal), or if they show any gang related signs for obvious safety reasons.
Generally, the busiest time for these types of businesses are weekends, particularly Friday and Saturday nights. Also, each venue usually focuses towards a certain music genre to draw in an audience with similar interests. For example, one venue may play mainly (or all) hip-hop music, while another venue caters towards Electronic, House or Rave.
During the early 1900s through the 1920s, it was common for the working class in America to socialize with each other at the juke joint or honky tonks to enjoy music and dancing, usually on a jukebox or piano. The first modernized social club is credited as Webster Hall, which was designed and constructed in 1886, which was originally known as “social hall”. Initially it functioned as a location for political and dance activities. However, during the United States Prohibition period, these types of locations either closed down, or became speakeasy bars, which were considered to be “underground” due to being illegal. Webster Hall was one of the few which remained open during this time, while rumors were that Al Capone was involved with the location, and bribed police.
In February 1933, the Prohibition was lifted, allowing venues to once again open up to the public and revive themselves once gain. Some of the popular names including Copacabana, New York’s 21 Club, the Stork Club and El Morocco who all had big bands play to drawn in the audiences.
In Germany, the Scotch-Club may be the first ever discotheque, which was located in Occupied France. During the time, Nazis had banned bebop, jazz and jitterbug dancing as it was believed to be “decadent American influence”. However, similar to the U.S. during Prohibition, people would gather at secret locations, usually basements known as discotheques to enjoy swing and jazz music. When jukeboxes were not present, a turntable was used. Furthermore, these locations had been patronized by youths known as “Zazous” who were anti-Vichy, while Nazi Germany had ‘swing kids’, which were anti-Nazi youths.
Prior to 1953, many venues would use jukeboxes or live bands, while some continued using them for many years later. In Harlem, popular names included the Cotton Club and Connie’s Inn which white people would attend.
Founded in 1947, the Whisky a Gogo in Paris was well-known. In 1953 they installed a dance floor, along with hanging colored lighting and replacing a jukebox with multiple turntables, which allowed for continuous music without interruptions between songs. These advances by Whisky a Gogo spread and set the foundation for standardized elements within modernized discotheque-style clubs post World War II.
Many coffee bars in Soho had introduced dancing in the afternoon by the late 1950s, with the most popular being Les Enfants Terribles. Discotheques were much different than modern nightclubs, as they catered to younger generations and were not licensed, generally started by Italian and French people with illegal start-ups. They had to learn English, and mostly had au pairs from western Europe.
In the early 1960s, places such as members-only venues were opened by Mark Birley, and in Berkeley Square, London there was Annabel’s. The Peppermint Lounge was constructed in 1962 in NYC, best known as the birth spot for go-go dancers.
These types of businesses however, did not really gain mainstream attention until the 1970s, the disco period. Rock and roll generations preferred taverns or tumble bars. These locations provided disco lovers a place to express themselves more, opening the social world of homosexuals, Latinos, African-Americans, Jews, Italian-Americans, and anyone who simply wanted to dance without the protocol or club policies of male-to-female dance partners.
There were laws against male-to-male dancing, and to create loopholes for this, discothèques started three men to one woman policy, shifting the concept of post-heterosexist communities. Therefore, women could be the gateway allowing men to expand their experiences with no fears of getting arrested. Disco allowed for people from various backgrounds to get together, acting as safe havens for partygoers, including homosexuals while avoiding public scrutiny.
Disco clubs thrived by the end of the 1970s, located in most major cities in the United States. PA systems were used to broadcast disco music by DJs. Disco outfits were commonly known to be shiny Qiana shirts made from polyester (men) and Halston dresses that flowed (women).
However, the disco era also increased drug activities, as many believed it enhanced a person’s experience with the flashy lights and music. These included blow (cocaine), poppers (amyl nitrite), and Quaalude. The increased usage lead to the next disco era, where public sex and rampant promiscuity were common place.
During this period, environments became part of the New Romantic movement in London and New York, including locations such as Camden Palace, and The Blitz. Music featured artists such as Blondie, Duran Duran, and Boy George.
1990s to Now
There are genre catering locations worldwide, from disco to popular techno and house themes. There are also trance, breakbeat and electronica genres. A variety of people enjoy gathering and socializing as they meet others with similar interests.