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A nightclub, music club or club, is an entertainment venue and bar that usually operates late into the night. A nightclub is generally distinguished from regular bars, pubs or taverns by the inclusion of a stage for live music, one or more dance floor areas and a DJ booth, where a DJ plays recorded music. The upmarket nature of nightclubs can be seen in the inclusion of VIP areas in some nightclubs, for celebrities and their guests. Nightclubs are much more likely than pubs or sports bars to use bouncers to screen prospective clubgoers for entry. Some nightclub bouncers do not admit people with informal clothing or gang apparel as part of a dress code. The busiest nights for a nightclub are Friday and Saturday night. Most clubs or club nights cater to certain music genres, such as house music or hip hop. Many clubs have recurring club nights on different days of the week. Most club nights focus on a particular genre or sound for branding effects.[1]

General information
Genres includedElectronic dance music
Types of street rave dance
  • Hakken
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  • Rebolation
  • Melbourne Shuffle
Related events
  • Music festival
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Related topics
  • Rave
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  • Club drugs
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Early history

In the United States, New York increasingly became the national capital for tourism and entertainment. Grand hotels were built for the upscale visitors[2] New York's theater district gradually moved northward during this half century, from The Bowery up Broadway through Union Square and Madison Square, settling around Times Square at the end of the 19th century. Edwin Booth and Lillian Russell were among the Broadway stars.[3] Prostitutes served a wide variety of clientele, from sailors on leave to playboys.[4]

The first nightclubs appeared in New York City in the 1840s and 1850s, including McGlory’s, and the Haymarket. They enjoyed a national reputation for live music, dance, and vaudeville acts. They tolerated unlicensed liquor, commercial sex, and gambling cards, chiefly Faro. Practically all gambling was illegal in the city (except upscale horseracing tracks), and regular payoffs to political and police leadership was necessary. Prices were high and they were patronized by an upscale audience. Timothy Gilfoyle calls him "the first nightclubs." [5] [6] By contrast, Owney Geoghegan ran The toughest nightclub in New York, 1880-83. It catered to a downscale clientele and besides the usual illegal liquor, gambling and prostitution, it featured nighly fistfights, and occasional shootings, stabbings, and police raids.[7][8] Webster Hall is credited as the first modern nightclub,[9] being built in 1886 and starting off as a "social hall", originally functioning as a home for dance and political activism events. During Prohibition in the United States, nightclubs went underground as illegal speakeasy bars, with Webster Hall staying open, with rumors circulating of Al Capone's involvement and police bribery. With the repeal of Prohibition in February 1933, nightclubs were revived, such as New York's 21 Club, Copacabana, El Morocco, and the Stork Club. These nightclubs featured big bands. From about 1900 to 1920, working class Americans would gather at honky tonks or juke joints to dance to music played on a piano or a jukebox.

In Germany, the first discothèque on record that involved a disc jockey was Scotch-Club, which opened in 1959.[10] In Occupied France, jazz and bebop music, and the jitterbug dance were banned by the Nazis as "decadent American influences", so as an act of resistance, people met at hidden basements called discothèques[11] where they danced to jazz and swing music, which was played on a single turntable when a jukebox was not available. These discothèques were also patronized by anti-Vichy youth called zazous. There were also underground discothèques in Nazi Germany patronized by anti-Nazi youth called the swing kids.

In Harlem, Connie's Inn and the Cotton Club were popular venues for white audiences. Before 1953 and some years thereafter, most bars and nightclubs used a jukebox or mostly live bands. In Paris, at a club named Whisky à Gogo, founded in 1947,[12] Régine in 1953 laid down a dance-floor, suspended coloured lights and replaced the jukebox with two turntables that she operated herself so there would be no breaks between the music. The Whisky à Gogo set into place the standard elements of the modern post World War II discothèque-style nightclub.

At the end of the 1950s, several of the coffee bars in Soho introduced afternoon dancing and the most famous was Les Enfants Terribles at 93 Dean St. These original discothèques were nothing like the nightclubs, as they were unlicensed and catered to a very young public—mostly made up of French and Italians working illegally, mostly in catering, to learn English as well as au pair girls from most of western Europe.


While the discothèque swept Europe throughout the 1960s, it did not reach the United States until the 1970s,[10] where the first rock and roll generation preferred rough and tumble bars and taverns to nightclubs until the disco era. In the early 1960s, Mark Birley opened a members-only discothèque nightclub, Annabel's, in Berkeley Square, London. In 1962, the Peppermint Lounge in New York City became popular and is the place where go-go dancing originated. Sybil Burton opened the "Arthur" discothèque in 1965 on East 54th Street in Manhattan on the site of the old El Morocco nightclub and it became the first, foremost and hottest disco in New York City through 1969.[13] The first large-scale discothèque in Germany opened in 1967 as the club Blow Up in Munich, which because of its extravagance and excesses quickly gained international reputation.[14]

1970s: Disco

Disco has its roots in the underground club scene. During the early 1970s in New York City, disco clubs were places where oppressed or marginalized groups such as homosexuals, Black people, Latinos, Italian-Americans, and Jews could party without following male to female dance protocol or exclusive club policies. Discoteques had a law where for every three men, there was one woman. This shifted the idea of this post-heterosexist community, as women could be seen as a kind of gateway for men to advance their own experience without fear of being arrested under the male-to-male dancing law. The women often sought these experiences to seek safety in a venue that embraced the independent woman — with an eye to one or more of the same or opposite sex or none. Although the culture that surrounded disco was progressive in dance couples, cross-genre music, and a push to put the physical over the rational, the role of female bodies looked to be placed in the role of safety net.[15] It brought together people from different backgrounds.[16] These clubs acted as safe havens for homosexual partygoers to dance in peace and away from public scrutiny.[17]

By the late 1970s many major U.S. cities had thriving disco club scenes centered on discothèques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the dancers. The DJs played "... a smooth mix of long single records to keep people 'dancing all night long'".[18] Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music.

The genre of disco has changed through the years. It is classified both as a musical genre and as a nightclub; and in the late seventies, disco began to act as a safe haven for social outcasts. This club culture that originated in downtown New York, was attended by a variety of different ethnicities and economic backgrounds. It was an inexpensive activity to indulge in, and discos united a multitude of different minorities in a way never seen before; including those in the gay and psychedelic communities. The music ultimately was what brought people together.[19]

Some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools that taught people how to do popular disco dances such as "touch dancing", the "hustle" and the "cha-cha-cha". There were also disco fashions that discothèque-goers wore for nights out at their local disco, such as sheer, flowing Halston dresses for women and shiny polyester Qiana shirts for men. Disco clubs and "... hedonistic loft parties" had a club culture with many Italian-American, African American, gay[20] and Hispanic people.

In addition to the dance and fashion aspects of the disco club scene, there was also a thriving drug subculture, particularly for recreational drugs that would enhance the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights, such as cocaine[21] (nicknamed "blow"), amyl nitrite "poppers",[22] and the "... other quintessential 1970s club drug Quaalude, which suspended motor coordination and turned one's arms and legs to Jell-O".[23] The "massive quantities of drugs ingested in discothèques by newly liberated gay men produced the next cultural phenomenon of the disco era: rampant promiscuity and public sex. While the dance floor was the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually took place in the nether regions of the disco: bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases the disco became a kind of "main course" in a hedonist's menu for a night out."[23]

Famous 1970s discothèques included celebrity hangouts such as Manhattan's Studio 54, which was operated by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Studio 54 was notorious for the hedonism that went on within; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. Its dance floor was decorated with an image of the "Man in the Moon" that included an animated cocaine spoon. Other famous 1970s discothèques in New York City included Manhattan's Starship Discovery One at 350 West 42nd Street. The album cover of Saturday Night Band's Come On and Dance, Dance features two dancers in the Starship Discovery One. Roseland Ballroom, Xenon, The Loft, the Paradise Garage, a recently renovated Copacabana, and Aux Puces, one of the first gay disco bars. In San Francisco, there was the Trocadero Transfer, the I-Beam, and the End Up.

By the early 1980s, the term "disco" had largely fallen out of favour in most of the English-speaking world.


During the 1980s, during the New Romantic movement, London had a vibrant nightclub scene, which included clubs like The Blitz, the Batcave, the Camden Palace and Club for Heroes. Both music and fashion embraced the aesthetics of the movement. Bands included Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Human League, Duran Duran, Blondie, Eurythmics and Ultravox. Reggae-influenced bands included Boy George and Culture Club, and electronic vibe bands included Visage. At London nightclubs, young men would often wear make-up and young women would wear men's suits.

The largest UK cities like Leeds (The Orbit), Newcastle, Liverpool (Quadrant Park and 051), Swansea, Manchester (The Haçienda) and several key European places like Paris (Les Bains Douches), Ibiza (Pacha), Rimini etc. also played a significant role in the evolution of clubbing, DJ culture and nightlife.

Significant New York nightclubs of the period were Area, Danceteria, and The Limelight.[24]

1990s, 2000s, and 2010s

In Europe and North America, nightclubs play disco-influenced dance music such as house music, techno, and other dance music styles such as electronica, breakbeat and trance. Most nightclubs in the U.S. major cities that have an early adulthood clientele, play hip hop, dance-pop, house and/or trance music. These clubs are generally the largest and most frequented of all of the different types of clubs. The emergence of the "superclub" created a global phenomenon, with Juliana's Tokyo (Japan), Ministry of Sound (London), Cream (Liverpool) and Pacha (Ibiza).

Techno clubs are popular around the world since the early 1990s. Famous examples of the 1990s include Tresor, E-Werk and Bunker in Berlin, Omen and Dorian Gray in Frankfurt, Ultraschall, KW – Das Heizkraftwerk and Natraj Temple in Munich, Stammheim in Kassel,[25] and The Haçienda in Manchester. A famous precursor also was the house club Warehouse in Chicago (1977–1982). Since the late 2000s, two venues that received particularly high media attention were Berghain in Berlin and Fabric in London.

In some languages, nightclubs are also referred to as "discos" or "discothèques" (German: Disko or Diskothek (outdated; nowadays: Club); French: discothèque; Italian, Portuguese and Spanish: discoteca, antro (common in Mexico), and boliche (common in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), discos is commonly used in all others in Latinamerica). In Japanese ディスコ, disuko refers to an older, smaller, less fashionable venue; while クラブ, kurabu refers to a more recent, larger, more popular venue. The term night is used to refer to an evening focusing on a specific genre, such as "retro music night" or a "singles night." In Hong Kong and China, nightclub is used as a euphemism for a hostess club, and the association of the term with the sex trade has driven out the regular usage of the term.

Video art has been used in nightclubs since the 1960s, but especially with the rise of electronic dance music since the late 1980s VJing gained more and more importance. VJs ("video jockeys") mix video content in a similar manner that DJs mix audio content, creating a visual experience that is intended to complement the music.

Entry criteria

Many nightclubs use bouncers to choose who can enter the club, or specific lounges or VIP areas. Some nightclubs have one group of bouncers to screen clients for entry at the main door, and then other bouncers to screen for entry to other dance floors, lounges or VIP areas. For legal reasons, in most jurisdictions, the bouncers have to check ID to ensure that prospective patrons are of legal drinking age and that they are not intoxicated already. In this respect, a nightclub's use of bouncers is no different from the use of bouncers by pubs and sports bars. However, in some nightclubs, bouncers may screen patrons using criteria other than just age and intoxication status, such as dress code and guest list.

This type of screening is used by clubs to make their club "exclusive", by denying entry to people who are not dressed in a stylish enough manner. While some clubs have written dress codes, such as no ripped jeans, no jeans, no gang clothing, and so on, other clubs may not post their policies. As such, the club's bouncers may deny entry to anybody at their discretion. The guest list is typically used for private parties and events held by celebrities. At private parties, the hosts may only want their friends to attend. At celebrity events, the hosts may wish the club to only be attended by A-list individuals.

Cover charge

In most cases, entering a nightclub requires a flat fee, called a cover charge. Some clubs waive or reduce the cover charge for early arrivers, special guests or women (in the United Kingdom this latter option is illegal under the Equality Act 2010,[26] but the law is rarely enforced, and open violations are frequent). Friends of the doorman or the club owner may gain free entrance. Sometimes, especially at larger clubs in Continental European countries, one gets only a pay card at the entrance, on which all money spent in the discothèque (often including the entrance fee) is marked. Sometimes, entrance fee and cloakroom costs are paid by cash, and only the drinks in the club are paid using a pay card.

Some clubs, especially those located in Las Vegas, offer patrons the chance to sign up on their guest list. A club's guest list is a special promotion the venue offers separate from general admission. Each club has different benefits when you are signed up on their guest list. Some of the benefits of being on a club's guestlist are: free entry, discounted cover charge, the ability to skip the line, and free drinks. Many clubs hire a promotions team to find and sign up guest to the club's guest list.

Dress code

Many nightclubs enforce a dress code in order to ensure a certain type of clientele is in attendance at the venue. Some upscale nightclubs ban attendees from wearing trainers (sneakers) or jeans while other nightclubs will advertise a vague "dress to impress" dress code that allows the bouncers to discriminate at will against those vying for entry to the club.

Many exceptions are made to nightclub dress codes, with denied entry usually reserved for the most glaring rule breakers or those thought to be unsuitable for the party. Certain nightclubs like fetish nightclubs may apply a dress code (BDSM) to a leather-only, rubber-only or fantasy dress code. The dress code criterion is often an excuse for discriminatory practices, such as in the case of Carpenter v. Limelight Entertainment Ltd.[27]

Exclusive boutique clubs

Large cosmopolitan cities that are home to large affluent populations (such as Atlanta, Chicago, Sydney, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Miami, New York City, and London) often have what are known as exclusive boutique nightclubs. This type of club typically has a capacity of less than 200 occupants and a very strict entrance policy, which usually requires an entrant to be on the club's guest list. While not explicitly members+only clubs, such as Soho House, exclusive nightclubs operate with a similar level of exclusivity. As they are off limits to most of the public and ensure the privacy of guests, many celebrities favor these types of clubs to other, less exclusive, clubs that do not cater as well to their needs.

Another differentiating feature of exclusive nightclubs is, in addition to being known for a certain type of music, they are known for having a certain type of crowd, for instance, a fashion-forward, affluent crowd or a crowd with a high concentration of fashion models. Many exclusive boutique clubs market themselves as being a place to socialize with models and celebrities. Affluent patrons who find that marketing message appealing are often willing to purchase bottle service at a markup of several times the retail cost of the liquor.[28]

London's most exclusive boutique nightclubs include Amika, Cirque le Soir, Project, The Box, and The Rose Club. They are frequently visited by an array of A-List celebrities from the fashion, film, and music industries. All are located in London's prestigious Mayfair, except Cirque le Soir and The Box, which are both located in Soho.

Los Angeles also contains exclusive clubs such as Warwick, owned by Eli Wehbe, which is frequented by celebrities such as G-eazy and Halsey.[29]

Guest list

Many nightclubs operate a "guest list" that allows certain attendees to enter the club for free or at a reduced rate. Some nightclubs have a range of unpublished guest list options ranging from free, to reduced, to full price with line by-pass privileges only. Nightclub goers on the guest list often have a separate queue and sometimes a separate entrance from those used by full price-paying attendees. It is common for the guestlist line-up to be no shorter or even longer than the full-paying or ticketed queues. Some nightclubs allow clubbers to register for the guest list through their websites. Web applications have been developed to manage nightclubs' guest list process.

Economic effects

Nightclubs’ actions, as a result of their nature as an entertainment hub serving alcohol, create negative externalities that affects third parties, which is not reflected in the price of the goods and services provided by the club. There are two types of negative externalities that could exist in the market: negative externalities of consumption and negative externalities of production. The former is created by consumers consuming the product, and the latter occurs by the production of the product by the industry. In the consumption case, the negative externality is created when the social marginal benefit of consumption is lower than the actual marginal benefit in the market, meaning consumers are consuming too much. In the production scenario, the negative externality is created when the social marginal cost of production is higher than the actual marginal cost in the market, so producers are producing too much.

Noise pollution

An example of a negative externality created by the nightclub (or negative externality of production) would be noise pollution. The noise is created by the loud music, usually curated by a DJ, and can negatively affect third parties. Noise pollution is considered a public health problem by the World Health Organization, and nightclubs contribute to it, causing annoyance and complaints.

A study in the Melville community in Johannesburg aimed to see the extent of noise pollution caused by nightclubs[30]. They found that 87% of the measured noise levels did not comply with the official ambient noise levels of 40dB at night. 57% of the population sampled also indicated that the noise lead to irritability, fatigue and sleeping disorders.

As we can see in this example, the marginal cost of nightclubs are too low, as their noise creates a nuisance for the people around them. Therefore, the socially optimum marginal cost is higher than their actual marginal cost, meaning that the supply of nightclubs should be lower such that the social marginal cost would equal the actual marginal cost.

Substance abuse

A distinctive feature of a nightclub is also the fact that it can serve as a hub for substances like alcohol, which could affect third parties, creating a negative externality of consumption. The culture of nightclubs create a sense of consuming alcohol in larger quantities than usual. A study in Sao Paulo looking to identify causes of binge drinking found that environmental variables such as more number of dancefloors, higher level of noise, and ‘all you can drink’ services to be significantly linked to binge drinking[31]. Furthermore, the culture created around nightclubs to indulge in ‘pre-drinking’ accentuates the amount of alcohol consumed, which leads to more problems in residential areas off nightclub premises (for example, a higher chance of participating in a fight)[32].

Moreover, young consumers of nightclubs who tend to binge drink are often found to be less safe during sexual encounters as a result of the alcohol[33], which could lead to the spread of STDs.

A big issue that stems from alcohol and drug abuse in nightclubs is transportation. Private cars are the most prominent mode of transportation to and from nightclubs, and the use of drugs and alcohol in nightclubs are reported to increase the number of risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence or taking a lift from someone under the influence[34]. A portion of driving customers, despite drinking less than non-driving customers, are still observed to have alcohol levels above the legal threshold after a night out at a nightclub[35].


In order to correct the externality, we must make the nightclubs' marginal cost and marginal benefit equal the social marginal cost and social marginal benefit. With respect to noise pollution, laws and regulations on maximum decibels of noise between certain periods of time of night may force nightclubs to internalize the cost. An example of these types of regulations are found in Paris, where bars, clubs, and other nightlife establishments with outdoor seating must keep noise levels below 3 decibels between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM, in addition to implementing proper insulation.[37] These regulations will increase the actual marginal cost of nightclubs, making it inline with the socially optimal.

Other forms of regulation, aimed at decreasing the consumption of nightclubs, can decrease the marginal benefit to the socially optimal level. While a pigovian tax on the alcohol can stimulate an incentive to drink less at the venue, club goers may resort to more pre-drinking as a result, which can lead to more damage to third parties.[32] Therefore, a tax on the entrance fee patrons must pay to attend nightclubs may be more effective decreasing the marginal benefit of the customers. Furthermore, curfew laws and last calls can physically inhibit customers from consuming alcohol, which would decrease their demand for attending nightclubs. It is found that changing the hours of the sale of alcohol by ≥2 hours has great effect on alcohol related harms.[38] These policies can decrease the actual marginal benefit of nightclubs customers, aligning it with the socially optimal level.


At high end or exclusive nightclubs, professional photographers will take publicity photos of patrons, to use in advertising for the nightclub. Digital SLR cameras and speedlight flash units are typically used.[39] Concert photography and event photography are used to provide clubgoers with a memorable keepsake in addition to promo material used by clubs. Since several years, some nightclubs and in particular techno clubs pursue a strict no photo policy in order to protect the clubbing experience, and smartphone camera lenses of visitors are taped up with stickers when one enters the venue.[40][41]


Most nightclubs employ teams of bouncers, who have the power to restrict entry to the club and remove people. Some bouncers use handheld metal detectors to prevent weapons being brought into clubs.[42][43] Bouncers often eject patrons who bring party drugs into the venue.[44][45] Bouncers count the number of people admitted to a club in order to prevent stampedes and fire code violations, and also enforce a club's dress code, frequently accepting bribes to let people jump the queue.[46] Many clubs have balcony areas specifically for the security team to watch over the clubbers.

Serious incidents

  • 20 September 1929: Study Club fire of 1929, early dance club fire that killed 22 in Detroit, Michigan, USA

  • 23 April 1940: Rhythm Night Club fire, 209 killed at nightclub fire at Natchez, Mississippi, USA

  • 28 November 1942: Cocoanut Grove fire, 492 killed in a nightclub fire at Boston, Massachusetts, USA

  • 1 November 1970: Club Cinq-Sept fire in a nightclub just outside the small town of Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, Isère in south-eastern France; 146 people killed

  • 8 March 1973: Whiskey Au Go Go fire, 15 killed after firebombing at Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Australia

  • 2 August 1973: Summerland disaster, 51 killed at fire at Summerland leisure centre at Douglas, Isle of Man

  • 28 May 1977: Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, 165 killed and 200 injured in nightclub fire at Southgate, Kentucky, USA

  • 14 February 1981: Stardust fire disaster, 48 killed and 214 injured at nightclub fire at Dublin, Republic of Ireland

  • 17 December 1983: Alcalá 20 nightclub fire, 82 people were killed and 27 injured in Madrid, Spain

  • 25 March 1990: Happy Land fire, 87 killed in a nightclub fire at Happy Land, The Bronx, New York City

  • 20 December 1993: Kheyvis Fire, 17 killed in a nightclub fire at Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • 27 November 1994: Yiyuan Disco fire, 233 killed in a nightclub fire at Fuxin, China

  • 18 March 1996: Ozone Disco Club fire, 162 dead and 95 injured at a nightclub in Quezon City, Philippines

  • 30 October 1998: Gothenburg discothèque fire, 63 people killed, 200 injured in a nightclub fire at Gothenburg, Sweden

  • 1 June 2001: Suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium discothèque in Tel Aviv, Israel

  • 12 October 2002: 2002 Bali bombings, 202 killed by large bombs

  • 7 December 2002: Cowgate fire, Edinburgh, Scotland

  • 17 February 2003: 2003 E2 nightclub stampede, Chicago, Illinois, 21 killed and over 50 injured

  • 20 February 2003: The Station nightclub fire, 100 killed at nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island

  • 30 December 2004: República Cromañón nightclub fire, 194 killed and 714 injured in a nightclub fire at Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • 18 June 2007: Gatecrasher One Fire, Sheffield, England

  • 1 January 2009: Santika Club fire in Santika Club in Watthana, Bangkok, Thailand, 61 killed and at least 212 injured

  • 5 December 2009: Lame Horse fire, a fire at the Lame Horse nightclub killed at least 155 people and injures 79 others in Perm, Russia.[47][48]

  • 27 January 2013: Kiss nightclub fire, 242 died in stampede in Brazil

  • 30 October 2015: Colectiv nightclub fire, 55 killed and 180 injured in Romania

  • 12 June 2016: 49 people killed in an attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida

  • 1 January 2017: At least 35 people killed in an attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey

See also

  • Dance hall

  • Dance music

  • Dance party

  • Go-go dancing

  • Nightclub act

  • Rave

  • Outline of entertainment


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