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Elise Daoud 15 Mar 2023

Historical Snapshot: The Story Behind Lebanon’s B018 Night Club

Lebanon’s prominent nightlife scene has been a consistent part of the city’s characterisation. One of the most iconic monuments in this night’s tapestry is the infamous B018 nightclub. Its current form was built in 1994, but the club itself is an extension of a partying scene that had grown during the civil war.

The party scene was spearheaded by Naji Gebran, who believed in “musical therapy” as a cure to the war’s ills. The parties would be hosted at Gebran’s chalet, which was said to be 18 km north of Beirut. This was said to be the reason behind the club’s name, but others have attributed the name to the security access code at Gebran’s chalet. Others believed it referred to the address the party was hosted at.

In this form, B018 exemplified one of the main images that we currently carry out of the civil war, with scenes of people dancing and partying in the midst of bombing and rubble. Of course, what that image leaves out is who was actually at those parties, an upper class strata that could afford a chalet, and recurring parties.

After the war, Gebran’s parties grew even more famous, and eventually overcrowded his original space, forcing him to turn to an abandoned warehouse in Sin el Fil for his new events. Eventually, that also got overcrowded, and what came next is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the previous question around who was actually partying during the civil war.

The new ground for B018 was decreed to be over the ruins of Beirut’s northern Karantina (or Quarantine). The sight had infamously been a scene of one of the civil war’s most brutal massacres, as the area was evicted of all Palestinian refugees (and poorer Lebanese) by the militias of the Lebanese Front.

The design of the club tried to incorporate some of this “war symbolism” into its iconic bunker design, which was made by prominent Lebanese architect Bernard Khoury. But the story becomes a little less appealing once you realize Lebanese people have been dancing over the direct scene of a massacre for over 20 years. So next time the image of the Lebanese war-party comes up, we might all need to sit back and reflect.