Berghain’s notoriously choosy bouncer Sven discusses door policy and the culture behind the club
In many of the top clubs in cities like London, Miami, and Los Angeles, looks or money – or a combination of the two – is usually a leg up in guaranteeing admission. Not the case at Berghain, the East Berlin club with arguably the strictest door policy in the world. At the helm of the notorious team of bouncers is Sven Marquardt, whose iconic tattooed face has informed expected rejection – or rarely, admission – for countless hopeful club-goers. Berghain’s legendary weekend parties, which begin midnight on Saturday and continue without break until noon on Monday, are known (and corroborated by the relatively few who have seen them) to have some of the best techno music in the world. Berghain, like many storied Berlin clubs, has no guest list, no bottle service, no reservations, and no phones or photos allowed inside. A typical wait time for a weekend can be six hours, and once at the front of the line facing Sven, the majority are turned away without explanation.
Sven has run security for Berghain since the club was first opened in 2004. His talents extend beyond his nightly duties. He has collaborated with Hugo Boss for a menswear line and has published three art photography books and a memoir. Sven spends two nights a week working security at Berghain, and works on photography projects the rest of the week. Sven grew up in East Berlin – the Communist side, and the site of one of the most repressive factions of the Communist Party until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. He first began photographing the underground punk scene in East Berlin in the eighties, and was discovered and later mentored by his mother’s friend, photographer Helga Paris. When the Wall fell, Sven’s brother became involved in Berlin’s burgeoning techno scene, and Sven asked to help out to make some money.
When asked what drives his decisions about the door policy, Sven explained that “It’s subjective. Only a few of my guys are allowed to select guests at the door. They have to understand what Berghain is all about first and I try to give them that foundation. Beyond that, there are no set rules. My people all have their own personalities, and you can see their sensibilities reflected in the crowd over the course of their shifts. You always want friction, though. That’s the theme in any good club: diversity, friction.” Bouncers have been known to confiscate cellphones or tape over their cameras at Berghain. This is part of what Sven describes as “responsibility to make Berghain a safe place for people who come purely to enjoy the music and celebrate—to preserve it as a place where people can forget about space and time for a little while and enjoy themselves. The club evolved from the gay scene in Berlin in the nineties. It’s important to me we preserve some of that heritage, that it still feels like a welcoming place for the original sort of club-goers. If we were just a club full of models, pretty people all dressed in black, it would be nice to look at for a half an hour, but God, that would be boring. It would feel less tolerant, too.” You can read the entire interview here.