Berlin Nightclub closes after 40 years, citing increased expenses 

Tue. November 21, 2023 5:28 PM by News Staff

berlin nightclub is officially closed

'So the doors are locked. The music is silenced and our dreams are now memories,' reads a statement from Berlin Nightclub owners

Berlin Nightclub is officially closed following a contentious battle with the union representing its employees.

The queer, pan-cultural nightclub located at Belmont and Sheffield has been home to Chicago’s queer community for four decades.

As of November 20, patrons and performers had boycotted the iconic club for five consecutive weekends at the request of Unite Here Local 1, which has represented the Berlin Nightclub workers since April.

The workers had previously staged a strike in August amid deadlocked talks on a contract. 

The actions left the popular club empty, costing owners and employees thousands of dollars in lost revenue and wages. A GoFund me was set-up to help employees.

On November 21, the union told members that the bar’s owners, Jim Schuman and Jo Webster, announced their intent to permanently close, effective November 19.

The nightclub officially announced the closing Tuesday afternoon in an Instagram post, saying, “The party ended 5 am, November 19, 2023 - nearly forty years and more than 10,000 nights from when it all began.

“The final chapter will surely be written about by 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. The expenses of increased security, insurance and licensing, equipment, rent and more cannot be overestimated and we could not imagine morphing the bar into a bottle service, VIP area venue. So the doors are locked. The music is silenced and our dreams are now memories. 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.”

Although the statement cited increased expenses, Berlin owners earlier this year described the impact on business from employees picketing earlier this summer. They warned the nightclub would likely not survive a boycott. 

In an open letter posted to the bar’s website, the owners claimed that the union’s proposals for higher wages, health care and pension benefits would cost the nightclub over $500,000.

Berlin owners did not immediately return a request for further comment.

Unite Here Local 1 posted a statement to Instagram, saying in part, “The workers of Berlin are heartbroken to hear of Jim and Jo’s decision to permanently and abruptly close this historic institution. That is the wrong decision.”