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A nightclub (or night club or club) is a drinking, dancing and entertainment venue which does its primary business after dark. People who frequent nightclubs are known as clubbers. A nightclub is usually distinguished from bars, pub or taverns by the inclusion of a dance floor and a DJ booth, where a DJ plays recorded dance and pop music.

The music in nightclubs is either live bands or, more commonly, a mix of songs played by a DJ through a powerful PA system. Most clubs or club nights cater to certain music genres, such as techno, house music, heavy metal, garage, hip hop, salsa, dancehall, or soca music.


Major cities in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States often have a variety of nightclubs, and some small towns and cities also have nightclubs. Nightclubs often feature lighting and other effects, to enhance the dancing experience. Lighting and effects include flashing colored lights, moving light beams, laser light shows, strobe lights, mirror-covered disco balls, or foam, and smoke machines.
Nightclub hours vary widely across the world; in areas with strict liquor regulations in place, nightclubs may have a legal requirement to close at a certain hour. These cities sometimes have illegal "after hours" clubs that stay open and serve alcohol after this legal closing time. In non-regulated areas, nightclubs stay open all night and into early daylight hours.

Entertainment is the main attraction at some types of nightclubs. One type of club is a concert club, which specializes in hosting performances of live music. In contrast to regular night clubs, concert clubs are usually only open when a performance is scheduled. Other types of clubs include "all-ages" clubs, which allow non-drinking age attendees.

Dancers move to the beat of a DJ's dance music at a nightclub
Nightclubs can be built in former warehouses and cinema, deconsecrated churches, underground buildings, and custom-built buildings, and generally have thick insulated walls and few or no windows, so that the neighboring buildings will not be disturbed by the powerful beat of the dance music, the flashing lights and crowd noise generated throughout the night. This style of construction also keeps light and noise from the street from entering the club.

This allows the nightclub to turn the dance floor into an alternate, illusory realm of timelessness. Even if an all-night rave at a nightclub lasts until 6 a.m., when it is light outside, to the clubgoers, it is still dark inside the club, and the partying and dancing continue. In most cases, entering a night club requires a flat fee called a cover charge. Early arrivers and women often have cover waived (in the United Kingdommarker, this latter option is illegal under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975). Friends of the doorman or the club owner may gain free entrance. Sometimes, especially at larger clubs, one only gets 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 wardrobe costs are paid by cash and only the drinks in the club are paid using a pay card.


Early history

Clubgoers dancing at an upscale nightclub
During US Prohibition, nightclubs went underground as illegal speakeasy bars. With the repeal of Prohibition in February 1933, nightclubs were revived, such as New York's Stork Clubmarker, 21 Clubmarker, El Morocco and the Copacabana. In Harlemmarker, the Cotton Clubmarker and Connie's Inn were popular venues for white audiences. Before 1953 and even some years thereafter, most bars and nightclubs used a jukebox or mostly live bands. In Paris, at a club named "Whisky à Gogo", Régine laid down a dance-floor, suspended coloured lights and replaced the juke-box with two turntables which 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 discothèque-style nightclub. In the early 1960s, Mark Birley opened a members-only discothèque nightclub, Annabel'smarker, in Berkeley Square, London. However, the first rock and roll generation preferred rough and tumble bars and taverns to nightclubs, and the nightclub did not attain mainstream popularity until the 1970s disco era.

1970s: Disco

By the late 1970s many major US cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around discothèques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJ 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'" Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music.

Some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools which taught people how to do popular disco dances such as "touch dancing", the "hustle" and the "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 which had many African American, gay 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 (nicknamed "blow"), amyl nitrite "poppers" , and the "...other quintessential 1970s club drug Quaalude, which suspended motor coordination and turned one's arms and legs to Jell-O". 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."

Famous 1970s discothèques included "...cocaine-filled celeb hangouts such as Manhattanmarker's "Studio 54marker", 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 discothèques included "The Loft", the "Paradise Garage", and "Aux Puces", one of the first gay disco bars. By the early 1980s, the term "disco" had largely fallen out of favor in North America.

1980s New York, London & Europe

During the 1980s, during the New Romantic movement, Londonmarker had a vibrant nightclub scene, which included clubs like The Blitz, the Batcavemarker, the Camden Palacemarker and Club for Heroes. Both music and fashion embraced the aesthetics of the movement. Bands included Depeche Mode, 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 mens' suits.

The largest UKmarker cities like Liverpoolmarker, Quadrant Parkmarker and 051, Swanseamarker, Manchestermarker (The Haçiendamarker) and several key European places like Parismarker (Les Bains Douches), Berlinmarker, Ibizamarker (Pachamarker), Riminimarker 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.

1990s and 2000s

In Europe and North America, nightclubs play disco-influenced dance music such as house music, techno, and other dance music styles such as electronica and trance. Most nightclubs in the U.S. major cities play hip hop, house and 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 Ministry of Sound (London), Idols (Swansea) Cream marker (Liverpool) and Pacha (Ibiza).

In most other languages, nightclubs are referred to as "discos" or "discothèques" ( ; Italian and Spanish: discoteca, antro (common in Mexico only), and "boliche" (common in Argentina only), "discos" is commonly used in all others in Latinamerica; or ). 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."

After the fall of communism in the Czech Republicmarker, "nightclub" or "night club" became a common euphemism for a brothel.

A recent trend in the North American nightclub industry is the usage of video. Instead of audio-only, DJ's are now using video and "mixing" music videos and related songs together in an audio/visual presentation. This harks back to the stage shows of 1970s rock tours and also incorporates influences from video art. In contrast, a new trend, developed recently in South Wales, is the use of string to create unusual aesthetically pleasing movements.


Accidents at nightclubs can occur for many reasons. The most disastrous accidents were fires at well-visited nightclubs, so fire safety prevention has to be taken with great care.


  1. Gootenberg, Paul 1954- Between Coca and Cocaine: A Century or More of U.S.-Peruvian Drug Paradoxes, 1860-1980 Hispanic American Historical Review - 83:1, February 2003, pp. 119-150. He says that "The relationship of cocaine to 1970s disco culture cannot be stressed enough; ..."

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