Prior to my first visit to Berlin a couple years ago, I was told that it was one of the best nightclubs in Chicago. If you’re into the whole nightclub thing, I am inclined to agree. And from what I’ve heard, the club used to be the hot spot in Chicago back in the late 80s and early 90s. Those who loved it then are less enthused about what it’s become today but Berlin is welcoming a new crowd, trying to stand out on its own, and strives to avoid being just any old Boystown nightclub.
Berlin is located on Belmont, adjacent to the Belmont “L” Station. With blackened windows and funky metal lettering above two nondescript black doors, one isn’t sure what they’ll find inside. A cool late-night dance club? A grope-fest? Perhaps a little of both…
Berlin’s dance floor is where all the action is at, literally. If you are looking to get felt up by random strangers then you will be in heaven at Berlin. I guess this could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Even women find themselves getting their ass grabbed by horny drag queens and kings. I kid you not—this happens frequently at the nightclub so if public groping isn’t your thing I would suggest wearing a giant sign reading “hands off” or just steer clear of the club all together. All groping aside, a very diverse crowd can be found at Berlin. It is very straight-friendly and surprisingly it’s not straight women that frequent the bar the most but straight men. Maybe it’s the music, the public groping, I’m not sure but for some reason straight men can’t get enough of Berlin.
Drinks at Berlin are mediocre at best as they can be a little weak at times and the beer sometimes tastes a little stale but you can’t complain when the bar offers such good deals. Specials change weekly but typically Tuesdays drinks are $1, Wednesdays select shots are $1 and PBR is $2, Thursdays the PBR special continues and Jack Daniels cocktails are $6, Sundays Heinekens are $3. In addition to drink specials, Berlin observes a new theme every night of the week. Manic Mondays invite new DJs every week and there is no cover, Tuesdays bring the aforementioned dollar drink nights, Stardust Thursdays welcome guest DJs and local stars, and Fridays are all about alternative music and dance. The themes on weekends change regularly but currently the first Sunday of every month is Madonna night and the last Sunday of every month is 80s night: a night I often make a point of visiting the bar just to see Cyndi Lauper look-alikes and dance to Footloose.
One of the downsides at Berlins is the occasionally rude staff. A couple of DJs have copped attitudes when requesting certain songs that are apparently beneath them to play and sometimes the bartenders pick and choose who they feel it necessary to serve. It can get really busy especially after all the other Boystown bars close and Berlin is the only one open. People are sometimes so packed into the club you will leave with wet and sticky clothes from everyone unintentionally spilling drinks on you. The cover charge can also be a little ridiculous at times: I’ve paid up to $8 just to get in the door. I’ve also heard a few stories about people being pick-pocketed or having their purses and coats disappearing—hence, why there is a coat check.
The diverse and fun crowd makes up for these things and the fact that the club closes at 4am during the week and 5 am on Saturdays doesn’t hurt either. I am officially too old to keep up with the crowd at Berlin but back in the day, being able to drink and dance until 5am was worth the drama on a Friday night. [Editor’s note: just watch out for what goes on in the alley separating Berlin from the “L”—from public displays of affection, to using it for a toilet or other nefarious activities, it’s not for the squeamish.] If you like Berlin, you might also want to drop by Spin, Circuit or Hydrate. For more information, check out the Berlin website.