After a month-long boycott of Chicago's Berlin Nightclub organized by Unite Here Local 1, the venerable institution closed for good today:
The announcement came hours after Unite Here Local 1, which represents the Berlin Nightclub workers who unionized earlier this year, also posted on Instagram the club’s owners told them the bar was permanently closed as of Sunday.
Workers at Berlin Nightclub, 954 W. Belmont Ave., had been leading a boycott of the popular LGBTQ+ bar for more than a month, claiming Schuman and Webster had never met with the union in person to negotiate its first contract.
Prominent drag performers like Irregular Girl, co-host of Berlin’s popular lesbian night “Strapped,” joined in solidarity, canceling their shows for the remainder of the boycott.
“Berlin has always been a sanctuary for trans people in Chicago who do not feel safe in many other places. … All of that is due to the hard work of the workers, many of whom are transgender themselves, all of whom are queer and all of whom are being mistreated and underpaid by Jim Schuman and Jo Webster,” Irregular Girl said during a rally outside the bar in October.
Berlin owners addressed the union’s actions in an open letter posted that week, claiming that the union’s proposals for higher wages, health care and pension benefits would cost the nightclub over $500,000.
None of Berlin’s union employees work more than 27 hours a week, and the club’s part-time employees earn a base hourly wage plus tips, according to a statement from the owners. All workers make between $22.50-$57 per hour with tips, the statement said.
In August, Berlin workers went on a two-day strike after organizers said Schuman and Webster repeatedly skipped bargaining sessions, bringing negotiations to a halt. Performers canceled their shows in support during the walkout.
Welp. Berlin was a straight-friendly gay club on the edge of Boystown (now known as Northalsted) when I first went there in the 1990s. It wasn't really my scene, but it was fun and campy, and occasionally some cool acts would play there.
I'm sad to see it go down like this. But closing to spite your union? That's not just a dick move, it may be illegal. I don't think this story is over.