From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A nightclub (often shortened to club) is an entertainment venue which does its primary business after dark. A nightclub is usually distinguished from other forms of drinking and entertainment establishments, such as bars, pubs or taverns, by the inclusion of a dance floor. In most other languages, nightclubs are referred to as "discos" or "discothèques" (French: discothèque; German: Disko or Diskothek; Spanish: Discoteca). In Japanese, disuko refers to an older, smaller, less fashionable venue; while, kurabu refers to a more recent, larger, more popular venue. The term night is often used to refer to an event hosted within a nightclub, such as "retro music night." A dance area too small to be considered a night club, but which has a bar, music and lighting effects, is occasionally referred to as a disco bar.
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 Club, 21 Club, El Morocco and the Copacabana. These nightclubs featured big bands (there were no DJ's).
In Occupied France, jazz and bebop music, and the jitterbug dance were banned by the Nazis as decadent American influences, so members of the French underground met at hidden underground basement dance clubs called discotheques where they danced to American swing music, which a DJ played on a single turntable when a jukebox was not available. These "discotheques" were also patronized by anti-Vichy youth called zazous. There were also underground discotheques in Nazi Germany patronized by anti-Nazi youth called the swing kids.
In Harlem, the Cotton Club 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", founded in 1947, Régine in 1953 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 post World War II discothèque-style nightclub. In the early 1960s, Mark Birley opened a members-only discothèque nightclub, Annabel's, in Berkeley Square, London. In 1962, the Peppermint Lounge in New York City became popular and is the place where go-go dancing originated. 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.
By the late 1970s many major US cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around discothèques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the dancers. Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music. The largest UK cities like Liverpool, Manchester, London and several key European places like Paris, Berlin, Ibiza, Rimini also played a significant role in the evolution of clubbing, DJ culture and nightlife.
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 discotheque-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 (Love Saves the Day) 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". (Peter Braunstein. 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." (Braunstein)
Famous 1970s discothèques included "...cocaine-filled celeb hangouts such as Manhattan's Studio 54 ", 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 discotheques 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, London had a vibrant nightclub scene, which included clubs like The Blitz, the Batcave, the Camden Palace and Club for Heroes. Both music and fashion embraced the aesthetics of the movement. Bands included Depeche Mode, 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 UK cities like Liverpool, Manchester (The Haçienda) and several key European places like Paris (Les Bains Douches), Berlin, Ibiza (Pacha), Rimini etc also played a significant role in the evolution of clubbing, DJ culture and nightlife
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 electro or 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 immergence of the Superclub created a global phenomenom, with Ministry of Sound (London), Cream (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. The term night is used to refer to an evening focusing on a specific genre, such as "retro music night" or a "singles night."
A recent industry 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.