Legendary nightclub shuts down

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Smuget, one of the Norwegian capital’s most popular nightclubs for nearly 30 years, closed its doors for good last week. A long chapter of music and cultural history in Oslo closed as well.

END OF AN ERA: Nightclub Smuget in Oslo has closed its doors. PHOTO: Views and News

Local media has been carrying virtual death notices for the club, recounting its existence and glory years. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), for example, noted how Smuget first opened in Kirkegata downtown in May 1985, and expanded when it moved to its longtime location on Rosenkrantzgaten in 1992.

It was founded by Eva Mellquist and Gunnar Simonsen who ran it during the late 1980s and 1990s as a real club that attracted more than 14,000 members.

They had earlier run a music club in Drøbak called Pingvinen (The Penguin) and opened an outlet in Oslo as well, where the Sex Pistols held their legendary concert in 1977. By the early 1980s they were running several clubs in Oslo, but dreamed of starting one from scratch that they’d frequent themselves, and built up membership through their friends.

“We offered them a place where they’d always be able to meet someone they knew,” Mellquist told newspaper DN over the weekend. “We wanted a ban on ties and photos.”

As many as 700 concerts and cultural events were held every year at Smuget, which attracted its fair share of celebrities because of its café, food served all night, several stages, its own disco and discretion regarding members’ private lives. Mellquist recalled how Bruce Springsteen wandered in completely alone one night, and spent the evening watching a concert from the sound man’s booth. Other names in her guest book include Harry Belafonte, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Tyler and Alice Cooper among others. Frequent local guests and members read like a who’s who of the Norwegian music scene, including Lars Lillo Stenberg, Steinar Albrigtsen, Ole Paus and current government minister for culture, Trond Giske.

Mellquist sold to new owners a few years after Simonsen died in 2000 and now the company running the club is bankrupt. DN reported that they suffered losses during the finance crisis, that Oslo’s nightclub scene has changed, that musicians perform other places, and noted that Mellquist no longer sat at the front door collecting entry fees or checking membership cards.

Views and News staff