Berlin’s Bergmannkiez is a very different part of Berlin, more associated with great food spots and niche shopping. It’s not, nor have has it ever been associated with clubbing. Now sitting on Mehringdamm, in the former space of indie-rock nightspot, Bang Bang Club is new venue called Maze, run by former MIKZ and Spirograph owner, Mark Beversdorf. He’ll argue that it’s not really a club, and the last thing he wants to do is have the area only associated with clubbing. In fact, he’d rather keep the club’s existence a bit-secret. With that in mind, DJBroadcast finds itself in a very fortunate experience getting to speak to the new owner to discuss its cultural relevance, goals and how Beversdorf’s relationship with the city’s nightlife has changed.
Just around the corner from Bergmannstrasse, there is a sign leading to courtyard, advertising the space- ‘Maze’. Mehringdamm 61 has been long been associated with music. Formerly home to Schwuz –one of Berlin’s leading gay clubs- and later on, Bang Bang Club, the space has always been one of the area’s leading music spots. The next closest venues are Gretchen and Columbiahalle, both over at least one kilometer away in distance each.
"'why do we need a name?’ We just referred to it as MD61, after the address"
Situated beneath street level, the venue consists of a bar complete with couches and alternating art shows; a stage that can host bands and cinema screenings; and a classic Berlin, cellar-like dancefloor. Giant steel gates can open up different parts of the venue, or seal them off, such that each visit provides a different layout and feel. Almost like being in a maze. Almost.
“We saw the space and we loved it, we never saw it as a maze, that came with time,” explains Beversdorf about the club’s name. “We opened before we had the name. When we opened we thought, ‘why do we need a name?’ We just referred to it as MD61, after the address. But then we realized we needed a name so that our customers had something to refer to us and so we created Maze.”
Mark Beversdorf has been active in Berlin’s nightlife for around twenty years. His previous enterprise was MIKZ on Revaler Strasse, which later became known as Spirograph. Earlier in 2015 however, Neue Heimat’s expansion forced the club to close, which meant the team had to search for another location. “Our old venue is still empty,” he laments. Not long after Spirograph’s closure, Neue Heimat was also forced to close down, as it had failed to meet safety regulations, leaving both venues now unoccupied. “There [MIKZ] we had all kind of parties; hard-techno, Goa, pop – everything,” Beversdorf details. “But we also had theatre, cinema, concerts and a lot of other things. It always had to fit to the venue.”
For Maze, it’s all about the atmosphere and having an environment where people can always find something, “We try to change small things all the time,” Beversdorf adds. The venue is open six-days a week, sometimes just as a bar, but you might catch a flamenco show, a film, a hypnotist or some DJs. “Sometimes we have three or four event points during a night,” which allows the punter to be able to wander from one thing straight into another.
“everyone is happy in here, and the feedback is 95% positive"
In the heart of the labyrinth
“We don’t advertise a lot, we want to keep it a bit secret, because we don’t want too many tourists.” Beversdorf’s comments can easily be taken out of context, but when he talks about his ideal clientele, he’s talking about people who are a bit more mature who actively contribute to the club’s atmosphere, and not, “big, drunk groups who are just being loud outside.” It’s because of this you won’t find Maze listings in magazines, or in the local listings, or even see fliers around the city. In fact, that they even have a Facebook page is even something that irks Beversdorf.
You’d expect a new club to rely heavily on advertising in order to survive, but the approach of Maze is remarkably unique and gallant. “The way we handle it is quite difficult, because we want to keep it quite secret. So we rely on word-of -mouth, and this takes time,” explains Beversdorf. “Everyone is happy in here, and the feedback is 95% positive and nearly everyone comes back. Sometimes it’s crowded in here, on Saturday we had 300 people for example, but during the week we had concerts so it varies. I would rather have less, and have a nice atmosphere.”
This policy is also reflected in how the club approaches its club nights. “We don’t have 10-15 DJs a night, we have maybe three,” explains Beversdorf. “We don’t have a timetable. People come here, have a nice night – and that’s it. And I won’t pay 2-3 thousand Euros per DJ. We have really good DJs and they mostly play vinyl only. We try to give it a bit more validation.”
“it’s getting fucking commercial, and we’re trying to move away from that”
Moving Away from Commercialization
Beversdorf has seen things change on a rapid rate throughout the city, and his principles are something that that he strives to embed within all polices. “It’s getting fucking commercial, and we’re trying to move away from that,” he retorts, when asked about how things have changed in Berlin. “But, it’s not possible to stay completely away from that, because we need to earn money.”
Moving away from Revaler Strasse has been a learning experience, with many positives. “We don’t have many walk-by customers. People mostly come for the special events. At Revaler Strasse there were tourists on mass who we can bring in, no matter what.” The key to making it work in Bergmannkiez is to work with the community and understand what makes people come back. “We realized there are so many artists around here, and on Sundays, they are mostly sleeping, or not in Berlin,” unlike in Mitte or Friedrichshain, where teems of techno-tourists are still out seeking the next big party.
Maze’s policy to being more of a cultural centre, as to opposed to being a club, creates a lot more potential when it comes to curating events. Already in January there are holistic mediation and yoga sessions lined up, poetry nights, fetish events and more. For those that have become lost within the myriad of generic techno clubs in Berlin, Maze is there to provide a way out, allowing you to find something a bit different.
See what's on at Maze here, while you still can.