By Joel Alas
TALLINN - A year ago I attended a party in an old factory in the suburbs. It was a grungy experimental rock concert populated by art student-types sipping warm beer.
The floor was pockmarked, beams of metal hung precariously overhead, and the whole place smelled like petrol.
A year later, I attended a party in the same place, though in very different circumstances. The factory had been transformed into a massive two level nightclub, the bohemians replaced with Tallinn’s A-list partyhoppers, beer cans banished in favor of cocktail glasses.
The transformation of the old factory reflects much about changes in Tallinn itself. Is it progress or gentrification? I guess that depends on whether you’re in the club or out on the street.
The venue is called Club Von Uberblingen, and it’s arguably Tallinn’s first metro-style superclub. It aims to emulate the superclubs of London and other European capitals.
The club’s owners have taken a huge gamble by choosing a massive location outside of the city center. The factory is in the suburb of Kristiine, which isn’t very far from the Old Town according to the map, but in the minds of club-hoppers it seems a great distance. It’s too far to walk, meaning guests will have to take a cab or trolleybus.
Paap Toonela, a part owner, said he thought Tallinn’s club scene was mature enough to accept such a venue.
“In big cities the best clubs are not in the center, but near the city,” Toonela says. “In the beginning, I also thought the location was a problem, but now I don’t think so. People will take taxis. In the winter, people take taxis everywhere anyway. It isn’t so far away.”
“The nature of the club is that it is something else from what is in the market. I think people will travel to see it.”
Toonela and his partners – who also own the Scotland Yard pubs – had been planning a superclub for over two years but were unable to find a location with enough space and a high ceiling. After finding the factory (which was previously part of the Polymer Kultuuritehas complex), they embarked on a six-month refit. Toonela said renovating the factory required a lot of work.
The interior designers have left many industrial elements intact, such as raw brick walls and large ventilation pipes. Other parts of the club are particularly chic, such as the women’s restroom, which looks more like a sofa lounge (or so I’m told). The club’s two huge balconies allow guests to see and be seen, while the glassed smoking mezanine is one of the classiest smoking rooms in the city.
Toonela wants to see the venue’s huge stage and dance floor utilized for live music. He hopes to see rock and dance groups performing at Uberblingen in the near future, although no acts have been booked so far.
The question on everyone’s lips is, “Will it work ?” The VIP launch was a huge success, and the public opening night a week later saw huge lines spill out onto the street. But will people want to go there each weekend ?
The entertainment calendar is drawn up for the next six months with DJs from the UK, Ibiza and Moscow.
Private parties and invitation events are scheduled each weekend. All that is required for Club Von Uberblingen to succeed is for Tallinners to get over their fear of the suburbs.
Club Von Uberblingen
Madara 22a, Kristiine, Tallinn