Berlin Night Life - Racist Door Policy in a Salsa Club?

Havanna is a nightclub in the middle of Schöneberg, for people who like Salsa and Rn'B forms of dance. A couple of years ago some people experienced racism among the bouncers and therefore started a protest group on Facebook.

The group quickly got popular and a lot of people agreed that this was a big problem at Havanna. Until one day the group was deleted with no reason given. Someone told us it was due to threats that were received from people involved in the issue.

We have decided to look in to this problem and see if the racism accusations are true. On Saturday night we went to Havanna to see what opinions the guests of the club have.

Fahad and friends

The first people we meet is a group of three men and four women, that had just been denied entrance to the club. One of the guys in the group is Fahad and he says that he hasn't been out for a couple of months. They have already tried to get in "Matrix" and "Watergate".
We have paid 80 euros for taxis tonight and now we get denied again!
Fahad believes that the reason for this is their origin.
The bouncers told us that they won't let us in because we are Arab.
He thinks that they only want Germans and Africans to come in.
Fahad has been living in Berlin for more than three years, and has a good job, but still experiences these problems all the time.

Totally clueless

Inside the club we ask the cleaning lady in bathroom if she's ever seen a pattern in which people are allowed in the club.
She is surprised and has never heard anything about certain people not getting in.

The next person we speak to is Cora. She's also unaware of any criteria of door policy.
My boyfriend has never had any problems getting in, even though he is "black".
But if the claims of racism were to be true, she would not agree with sorting out people because of where they came from.
I never have any problems in any club because I have good connections - Paul, an African guy on the bottom floor.

Flirt behavior and skin color

A woman is standing next to the dance floor with her boyfriend. She is new here and doesn't know about door policies in Havanna.
But I feel like "black" people tend to be more aggressive and straight forward in flirting.
Before she runs onto the dance floor, she says that she doesn't care who is in the club, as long as she is here with her boyfriend.

Discrete discrimination is OK

Downstairs, next to the Rn’B floor we meet Diana and her friend. They are a little more experienced and don't go out so often anymore. When we ask her if she knows about any door policy she replies:
I don't know about the issue but I find it normal and important that a club takes care for a good mixture of people. That also regards origin and skin colour. It is the same as sorting out men if there are too many men in the club.
She says that this can work both ways, for example at a club called 90 degrees she knows that woman have been excluded at times. Even though she believes that people should be informed discretely, for instance by telling them that the club is full, or only for people on the guest list.

Africans against Arabs

Siaka is sitting on one of the couches on the 3rd floor together with his girlfriend.
He definitely agrees with the problems of racism. He had a lot of problems before so he bought the Havanna membership card (85€ a year and 60€ the second year. Ed. note.)
It was better for a month but then the card was taken away without any reason. He only got it back from the owner with help from a friend called Ziolane Diaby.
He thinks that the bouncer’s reason for denying "black" people could be jealousy over that they get along with women very well.
He declined being photographed since he is afraid that could give him more problems with the club.

The next person we speak to is Ziolane Diabe, the person who helped Siaka to get his Havanna card back.
He says he knows a lot of cases where Africans have problems getting in, are even treated badly and racistly.
A good example is when a bouncer called him "monkey" when he was a little loud in the backyard. (The club is in a courtyard and surrounded by normal apartments, therefore you have to keep silent outside the club.)
Another incident was when he was entering the club and the bouncer saw his gym card and said: "It is because of guys like you I don't go to the gym anymore."
Ziolane says that he asked the bouncer what he just said. "Oh, it was just a joke" was the answer.
He continues and says
It's a problem between Arab and African people. Sometimes one African guy is beaten by five to ten Arabs without getting help. But Cuban people are favored by the bouncers, they never have any problems getting in, even without a card.

On a couch on the 3rd floor is Katharina sitting with her boyfriend.
She says that neither her, nor her boyfriend, ever had trouble getting in.
I think that it might be issues between Africans and Arabs and that's why they don't let them in, says the boyfriend.
They both say that they've never seen it themselves, but have heard about the issue from other people.

The bouncers

At last, when we are about to leave the club, we stop for a quick chat with one of the bouncers of the night.
He says that one of the Arabic guys that was neglected at the beginning of the evening was in fact a relative of the other bouncer. "They didn't tell you this when you talked to them, did they? - So He might have had his reasons."
He also claims that some Arabic people are ailing the image of Arabs, so these people they don't let in anymore.
About black guys? If we don't let them in it's because we don't know them or because they don't have the Havanna card.
He ads that none of these rules apply to us since we are women.
Also, it is not about nationality but about following what his boss says.
Also, it is not about nationality but about following what his boss says.
So who is now to blame? The bouncers say that they only do what their boss tells them and that some people already had their chances but blew them. The boss on the other hand, might just follow what customers want. As for the women who thought that "it needs to be a good mix of people, also regarding origin and skin colour".
Are we all guilty of this racism? Is it really that "all Arabs cause fights" or "all Africans are too aggressive in their flirting"? Could it maybe be that Germans act the same sometimes but we let it pass more easily?

By Mia Leifsdotter
Together with Sabryna Tryzsze
PHOTOS Mia Leifsdotter
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