Clärchens Ballhaus: a Berlin cult pub takes a break

German reunification

Clärchens Ballhaus has lived and survived over 100 years of German history. Now the legendary Berlin dance temple closes for unknown duration due to necessary renovation work. A look back in pictures.

Still Film Myth Berlin - Clärchens Ballhaus (rbb)

Gentrification arrived in the dance hall?

Here people still go to sleep, as the Berliners say. But at the weekend, the ballroom, loved for its crumbly charm, says goodbye with a last dance. Then the building will be renovated, so the owner wants it. It is due to reopen in 2020, with a new tenant. Long-standing guests are concerned that after the renovation, the previous charm of the ball house will be gone.

Jazz dance band is playing

Dancing through history

Since opening over 100 years ago, Clärchens Ballhaus has delighted guests who love dancing. During the Second World War the dance hall went through difficult times, it was a thorn in the side of the Nazi leadership. After the war, it was found in East Germany.

Entrance to Clärchens Ballhaus, late 1920s

Auguststrasse 24

On September 13, 1913, Fritz Bühler and his wife Clara Habermann opened “Bühlers Ballhaus”. The building was perfect for her vision: with two large dance halls on two floors in the back of the house, where the music would not disturb the neighbors.

Group photo with Clara Habermann (2nd from right), late 1920s

That is Clärchen!

Clärchen (on the right in the picture, sitting) was a Berliner who raved about dancing. You could always find her on the floor, at Charleston or at other popular dances. She made the mood boil – every night of the week.

Original poster, mid-1930s

name change

“Bühlers Ballhaus” quickly became known as “Clärchens Ballhaus”, based on Clara’s nickname. It became a popular institution among Berliners – even though the National Socialists even temporarily banned dance here. At the end of the Second World War, the facade was destroyed by an Allied bomb and Clärchens closed.

The grand ballroom on the ground floor in the mid-1980s

East Berlin

Clärchens quickly reopened after the war. Although it was in socialist East Berlin, it was allowed to remain in private hands. During the division of the city, it was a popular meeting place for all Berliners – both from the east and from the west. Too old to run the business longer, Clara transferred ownership to her children.

The courtyard garden in 1911

New owners, same mindset

German reunification in 1989 created a lot of changes in Berlin – also in the Clärchens. Clara’s daughter, owner of the building and business, sold both in November 2003. The new management also modernized the empty courtyard – with a new interpretation of the original garden restaurant and the beer garden.

View of the restored hall of mirrors

The historic Hall of Mirrors

In 2018, photographer Yoram Roth bought Clärchens. During the renovation in 2020, the mirror room will be air-conditioned so that it can be used all year round. Hopefully the cracks and holes in the walls and floors will remain. It is precisely these historical traces that make Clärchens Ballhaus so charming.

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