I don’t get to Berlin as often as I like, so when I have the opportunity to visit I make sure I am there for a Friday night. For my Friday night I always go with a sure bet and that is Friday Fuck at the Lab. I recommend that if you are planning a trip to Berlin and want an experience like no other, and then make sure you arrange to be there on a Friday night.
The ‘Lab’ is actually named Lab-oratory. To be completely honest with you, having traveled as extensively as I have, and having visited many dozens of gay bars and clubs all around the world I will state that Friday’s nights at the Lab is by far my favorite. This is a men only club / bar / sex party.
Before I discuss more about the Lab, I do want to mention that annexed in same building but through a separate entrance is the club Berghain. I don’t usually go into this club, but the general consensus of many younger Berliners, Europeans, and frequent travelers is that this is a great mixed club. When I leave the Lab at 2:00am I have to walk past the line to enter Berghain is about 200 deep. The crowd is both male and female, and the age group seems to be mostly 20s through 40s. I was also told that the door people try to keep entrance to about 50% gay. I believe this club is most popular on Saturday nights.
So maybe based on my recommendation of the Lab, and the great popularity of Berghain, as a gay traveler you would consider one these venues as a required night out. In my humble opinion you will not experience anything else like these places elsewhere in the world.
In this blog I will be describing my most recent visit to Lab-oratory.
The Lab-oratory and Berghain share a building in an eastern Berlin blue collar neighborhood at the edge of an industrial area. Other than a few coats of paint, the area looks pretty much like it did before re-unification. The building where the Lab is located is only a short walk from the Ostbahnhof (East Station). I suggest you take the S-bahn to Ostbahnhof and walk the 10 minutes to the Lab. The area is safe. Besides, you will immediately tell that something us nearby when you see other guys making their way from the train station in the direction you are walking.
If you decide to scope out the building and neighborhood during the day, don’t let the neighborhood or location put you off. During the day the area is a dreary back-lot industrial area. During the night it is teaming with people, parked cars, and there will be a long line of taxis waiting to get you back to your hotel (since most of the trains will have stopped running).
The Lab is a men-only bar, and is a combination sex club and bar. You can go there and engage in as much or as little activity as you like. You can go to just down a few drinks with some buddies, or share your cock with some new friends Since the Lab is probably like no other bar you have ever been to, at the very least I am sure you will want to walk around and explore a bit.
Before I describe the Lab, I want to walk you through the process of entering and paying the admission. This admission process is somewhat common in Europe, but mostly unknown in the USA. I want to familiarize you with the process.
When to Arrive
I suggest arriving at the Lab at about 10:30pm. Trust me, this is not too early. In fact, on most nights there is a ‘doors close at midnight’ policy. This means you cannot even enter after midnight. I personally think this policy is genius. It forces the patron to make the Lab the event for the night and not an afterthought at the end of a night of clubbing. At 10:30pm there will be about 200 people already there, and since the attendance is usually about 450+, getting there at this time puts you right in the middle of the entry pack.
The entrance to the Lab is on the side of the building. The entrance on the face of the building will be for the club Berghain. You cannot go from one club to the other, so enter the Lab if that is where you intend to spend the evening. Besides, the Berghain does not even get pumping until about 1:00am anyway.
Paying the Entrance Fee
When you enter you will go through a long corridor to a court yard. Across the courtyard you will see another entrance with the doorman collecting money for entry. The entrance fee during the spring of 2012 was 6 Euros, or about $8.00 USA. I consider this a low price. There is no phony membership scheme like you have at clubs in the USA. The fee is a flat 6 Euro to enter.
The doorman will give you two things. First, he will give you a ticket with a number. DO NOT LOSE THIS TICKET. You need it to exit the club. Earlier I wrote that I recommend you wear a leather wristband to keep a stash of money. I also keep this ticket in my wristband.
The numbers are given out sequentially. I mention this so you can get an idea of how many guys are already in the club before you. During my most recent visit to Berlin I was there two Friday nights. The first night I arrived at 10:45 and I was number 276. The second night I entered about 10:30 and I was number 191.
The second item the doorman will give you is a large plastic bag. The bag is for your coat and / or clothing check.
Checking Your Coat/Clothing
After you pay the entrance fee and get your number and bag, go to the adjoining area to fill your bag. At this point, strip down to your outfit for the night and place your excess clothes into the bag. Dress as you feel most comfortable. I will describe the guys later in this blog series, but I can say now that more than 80% of the guys will be either nude, in underwear, or in gym shorts. 95% or more will be shirtless. A few (i.e. not many) guys will be shirtless and in jeans. Almost nobody will be fully dressed. Some guys will dressed in soccer shorts and shirt, leather outfits, or rubber outfits. Leather and rubber outfits are not common on a Friday night.
The bar is kept very warm, so shirtless will probably be most comfortable.
Once you fill the bag with your clothes, tie it up. Then proceed down the corridor to the check room. Remember, lots of guys are entering at this time, so when in doubt just follow everyone’s lead.
At the bag check counter show, give the guy your bag, and show him the ticket you received with your number. He will write your number on the bag, and with a grease pencil he will write your number on your arm. At this point you are free to enter the bar.
I suggest you check everything but what you decide to wear. In my wristband I keep a little money and the number. You don’t need your wallet in the club, so I suggest checking it.
Also, during the night if you decide to strip down more, just go back to the check area to put more clothes into your bag. If you do so, give the coat check guy a small tip. One Euro should do.
Research the Night
I should mention at this point that the Lab is not open all the nights of the week. It is mostly a Thursday through Sunday bar. In addition, different nights have different themes. For example, Friday nights is Friday Fuck, so dress as you feel most comfortable and as I previously described. Other nights are nude nights. Some non-Friday nights are more extreme, so research and then dress appropriately. For example, sometimes they host theme parties such as business attire, sportswear, masks, leather, gummi (i.e. rubber), beard, piss, fist fuck, scat, filth, mud, complete darkness, etc.
Do any of these themes tickle your fancy?
For me, I stick to Friday nights for their Friday Fuck, but the other nights are certainly experiences you might want to try if you are up for it. Just make sure you can handle it and are dressed appropriately. Berliners take their parties seriously.
Ordering a Drink
Once in the bar I would recommend you buy a drink to relax and ease your way into the club. When you order a drink you do not pay for it until the end of the night. Instead, the bar tender will ask to see the number written in grease pencil on your arm. The bar tender will then keep a tab for the drinks you buy. The Lab is a ‘pay when you exit’ bar. I think this is another mark of genius since it allows the bartenders to service a lot of customers very quickly without having to fumble with money. In turn, you will not require pockets or need to worry about your wallet during the night. As a reminder, when I visit I am wearing a leather wristband with a zipper pocket on the inside.
Friday nights is usually two-for-one, so don’t be surprised if the bartender hands you two drinks whether you asked for it or not. In clubs such as the Lab I always recommend a buying a bottled drink. I always feel funny being in a club like the Lab and drinking something from a wide opening glass. A Becks beer will cost you 3 Euro, so you will get two Becks for that price. So between the 6 Euro entrance and two Becks for 3 Euro, this is so far shaping up to be an inexpensive night out. There will also be a variety of beers, energy drinks, and water. Of course you can get a mixed drink if that is what you really want.
Leaving the Bar
After what I hope will be an enjoyable night out, you need to also have to go through a process to leave the bar.
With the money you have in your wristband or pocket, go to the bar ask the bartender for your tab. After looking at the number written on your arm he will print out the tab and tell you how much to pay. When I pay the tab I also give the bartender a small tip of 2 Euros.
After paying your tab, the bartender will give you a receipt. DO NOT LOSE THIS RECEIPT. Your number will be on your receipt, and it is your proof that you settled your tab. Even if you did not buy a drink during the night, you still need to go to the bartender and settle your tab. You need a receipt to exit.
With the receipt make your way to the clothing check area. Show the clothing check guy your receipt, and he will give you your clothing back. I tip the clothing check guy one Euro. You then go down the hall and get dressed. Again, there will be many guys around doing the same thing, so just follow their lead.
Once dressed, make your way to the front door. The guy there will ask for two things before he lets you leave. He will ask for the ticket you received upon entry that has your number on it. He will also ask for your receipt to prove you settled the bar tab. He will match the numbers on the ticket and receipt before letting you leave. I have no idea what happens if you don’t have these items, and I do not recommend you try to find out.
Going Back to Your Hotel
If you are like me, you will probably leave the Lab at about 2:00am. At this time on a Friday night the U-bahns are still running, and so are the night buses. For me these are way too far to walk to after Friday Fuck at the Lab. Fortunately, outside on the street will be a queue of cabs.
Since the night has been fairly inexpensive thus far, I suggest you just spring for a cab back to your hotel. To give you an idea of cost, the Lab is way across town from the gay section near Nollendorfplaz. The cab ride from the Lab to Nollendorfplaz will cost you about 15 Euros plus a 2 Euro tip.
Tomorrow, our final installment: Where To Find the Action