Once upon a time, many clubs came equipped with magical break-out zones. After an hour too many in the heat of the dancefloor you could retreat to a quiet corner of the club and recuperate in a space specifically designed for that purpose. Soft furnishings, mood lighting – strangely, you’d often find a malfunctioning games console in the corner and almost certainly a cheeky spliff getting passed around – these places were sanctuaries from the madness of the dancefloor where you could get lost in conversation with a stranger, make a best friend for the night or in some cases, a best friend for life.
Ask anyone who went clubbing in the 90s and early 2000s and they’ll instantly reminisce about the halcyon days of the garden at The Cross, Whirl-Y-Gig’s infamous spot, the upstairs room at Bristol’s Lakota, Sterns in Worthing with its tea tent, and so on. But somewhere along the line chill-out rooms all but disappeared. In 2017, the majority of clubs in the UK are bereft of this type of sanctuary, and it’s a crying shame. Of course, things change and evolve, but the part that chill-out rooms played in the communal aspect of a party cannot be denied.
So, why did chill-out rooms fade away? Firstly, the smoking ban in 2007 saw promoters focus their efforts on creating outdoor, covered smoking areas. Then, the chill-out room arguably fell foul to the increase in demand for space and higher DJ fees. As the property market ripped the heart out of clubland, putting on events became more and more costly – so party promoters and club owners had to make as much money as possible from the spaces they used. Having an extra room where people just lounge around chatting breeze to each other stopped being financially viable. Squeezing a few hundred more people into that space with more music and an extra bar is far more lucrative, and common, today.
“It’s increasingly difficult to embrace any real sense of adventure in London because it’s so competitive that anything that deviates too much from the norm often receives short shrift,” explains Ajay Jayaram, one of the team behind London night The Hydra. “Using an additional room in a club for anything other than to consolidate what is already on offer is likely to add risk an already precarious undertaking... In short, sadly a chill-out room would be an indulgence too far.”
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