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On June 30, a sea of partygoers flooded the courtyard of Chicago’s newly-minted Salt Shed music venue for the Everyday People global day-party tour stop. The sun was shining. Nobody was shooting. As DJ Caleeb transitioned flawlessly from Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” to the quintessential DJ Rashad and Gant-Man juke track “Juke Dat Juke Dat,” all of the Everyday People attendees were, at once, struck by a collective realization: This shit is bussin’. 

Black Chicago has always been a tribe of dancing-ass niggas. If you know, you know. From 75th Street steppers sets and low-end basement juke parties, to West Side footwork battles and house head mosh pits at the Lakefront, our rich cultural legacy is responsible for a number of prolific contributions to the national and international party scene.

Yet these days, for the city’s young Black residents, a good night out is becoming harder to find than fresh fruit in Englewood. With house parties fading into obscurity (because thanks to gentrification, no one has a house?), much of the city’s nightlife has fallen into the hands of club promoters and venue owners. Parties run by corporations and capitalists? What could possibly go wrong?

“Honestly, I can’t say I be at many clubs,” Subriana K., a recent DePaul University graduate, told me. “They’ve gotten so cramped with sections, and nobody wants to pay for all that.” 

The “sections” in question have become an evolved and more truncated version of the “VIP section” of yesteryear. These are isolated and cordoned-off spaces for partygoers wishing to enjoy the vibes without the activity, and perhaps chaos, of the open dance floor — all for an additional fee, of course (starting around $1,500 to $2,000 these days).

Except nowadays, sections aren’t as roped-off as they used to be. In fact, they’re often smackdab in the middle of the party; the desire to be inconspicuous now replaced by the social media-fueled thirst for spectacle and validation.

To be fair, these sections are actually a cool supplemental feature. I love pre-chilled liquor, sparklers, and cushy couches as much as the next person (perhaps even moreso, with my Taurus ass). However, when the VIP section becomes so normalized that it outshines the actual dance floor, we must begin to wonder whether the plot has been lost.

In conversations with several friends, many who work full time in the nightlife industry, the issue of space and lack of a designated dance floor has come up time and time again, particularly at mainstream spots like Money Gun and Blind Barber.

More and more venues, it seems, are looking to offset the costs of rising rents by increasing drink prices (whoever invented $16 shots needs their ass beat), and repurposing potential dance floor space into more paid seating. 

However, as Everyday People very clearly demonstrated with their day party on June 30, this city’s dance culture is far from dead. As most locals know, collectives like Party Noire and Global Currency, and The FiFi party series by J Bambii,  are all committed to curating intentional space where Black partygoers can actually have a fun and safe time at a reasonable, equitable price despite continued battles against anti-Black communities and venue owners.

Also, spaces like Sleeping Village, Punch House, aliveOne, The Promontory, Subterranean, and Cerise Rooftop work diligently to offer opportunities for young Black folks to come and have a good time, without the hassle of excessive cover charges (Money Gun bouncers, count your f*cking days), or the expectation to rent out a glorified cubicle while drinking liquor up-charged by 1000%. 

The grim reality for venue owners and party promoters — not just in Chicago, but for many “rich nations” around the world — is this: clubs, as we know them, are dying. 

In the decade before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Britain saw a 21% decrease in the number of its nightclubs; the US and Germany followed at around 10%. Developing nations’ nightlife scenes fare better, with younger populations and access to cheaper space; but as prosperity increases, so do capitalism’s typical side effects. 

While nightclub politics may seem trivial, they may also be a microcosm of a larger conversation. As seen in the Roaring 1920s, our culture is defined in these very spaces by young Black folks simply trying to express themselves and have a good time. 

What happens, then, to the culture when the working class is priced out of its own leisure? From jazzist Miles Davis to rapper Biggie Smalls, many of our greatest artistic contributions have been a direct result of our proximity to the sweat and spirit of the dance floor.

This isn’t a call to cancel sections or eradicate bottle culture (matter fact, if you see me on a couch at LiqrBox next week, don’t say nothing). This is merely a sincere reminder to all party promoters and venue owners servicing Black Chicago: please treat the craft as more than a money grab. These spaces matter.

is a Chicago-based producer, writer, and curator. Interests include Black joy, hood Chinese food, and cozy sweaters.