After The Basement’s demise earlier this year, B018 automatically became my absolute favorite club, in the world. Apparently, I am not the only one that thinks so. B018 ranks 6th on WorldsBestBars.com’s Top 100 and 40th on DJMag’s Top 100 clubs. To compare, Sky Bar is 62nd on DJmag’s poll and doesn’t even appear on World’s Best Bars page. Let’s start with the basics:
Pronounced: B (bee) 0 (written as a zero, pronounce as the letter O) 18 (eighteen).
Written: B018 NOT BO18
Origins: Founder, Naji Gebran’s apartment was number 18 in a block B back in the 80s, where the B018 concept began. Contrary to popular belief, it does NOT mean Be-Over-18.
Start: 1984, Beirut
First Location: 1993, a warehouse in an industrial area of Beirut
Second Location: 1998, the current location in the Karantina area
B018 is located in the Karantina area, which is Arabic for Quarantine. This part of Beirut used to be where foreign crews were screened for diseases in ancient times, and in more modern times, more specifically during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) it housed some 20,000 refugees. The area saw horrific violence and the refugee camp was completely obliterated and its residents displaced.
The area’s terrifyingly macabre aura and history make it an unlikely spot for an entertainment hub. But that’s exactly what it’s become. B018 is Beirut’s oldest and most legendary club, and it sits buried in an area that has been synonymous with pain and discord for centuries, chasing away the ghosts of the past.
Architecture and Design
Everyone knows that Bernard Khoury designed B018. It is arguably his most famous creation. From the highway, you might mistake it for a humble parking lot. However, at night, the sounds and traffic will definitely show you otherwise.
The above-ground structure is an unassuming metal facade with a massive hydraulic apparatus that articulates the infamous retractable roof. Concentric circles surround the metallic, subterranean structure, where cars complete a full rotation around the club before finding a spot in one of the outer circles. The headlights of clubbers’ cars reflect off the surface of one of the roof’s retractable sections, which along with the city lights, create the only dynamic visual factor in the club below.
The comfortable sofas are foldable, serving as both a seat and an elevated platform for the more restless happy feet. It might be interesting to point out that the wood used in making the chairs comes from coffins, adding to the cryptic feel of the bomb-shelter inspired club.
The many unique and bold features of the club’s design and architecture have landed B018 in every single architecture-related journal and magazine. The vibrant and energetic club is a stark contradiction of its surroundings and as Bernard Khoury explains, a perfect protest to the neglect this area of the Lebanese capital has suffered over the years.
B018 is a massively underground club. Its pedigree is endorsed by the world’s biggest underground names, from Dany Howells to Nick Warren, to the M_nus crew, James Zabiela and many many others. The club hosts the gods and goddesses of underground electronic music on a regular basis. It has also harbored many of Lebanon’s artists with underground street cred such as Lumi and Fady Ferraye.
From electro, to techno, to minimal, to nudisco, to house and progressive, there’s always a deliciously digital genre blaring from the speakers and spilling off onto the highway. Big Al, Gunther, Stamina, Fady and Ziad are the resident decknicians and will always make sure you get the bass massage your internal organs so desperately need.
Other days, B018 plays host to a completely different type of music, from funk and jazz, to pop and rock and 80s music. It’s usually on Thursdays, and sometimes on Mondays. But Friday and Saturday are always dedicated to the club’s reputation-making deep, underground, electronic masterpieces.
My Two Cents
B018 is my ideal venue. It is underground, yet can be glamorous when it needs to be. It has amazing DJs all year round, yet can play host to virtually any musical heavyweight. It is ancient, but has yet to lose its luster. I’ve become close friends with many of the people behind this club, especially Ziad and Gunther. I hold the mayorship of B018 on Foursquare, and have done so for well over 18 months straight. I’ve checked in there a total of 67 times, which is a LOT.
I am disappointed to see so many people get the wrong impression about B018. Its afterhours operations earn it underserved notoriety of being infested with drunks and junkies. Well, I don’t really drink alcohol and I don’t do drugs and I can vouch the same for most of the people that frequent B0 (although they probably drink more alcohol than I do =P). So, to whomever thinks they’re too good for B0 and wouldn’t go there in a million years, I say THANK YOU! Good venues unspoiled by fish-face poses, cheap cigars and way-too-much makeup are a rarity, and B018’s notoriety does serve an indirect purpose: filtering the clientele, watering down the vanity and selecting for more genuine music lovers that go clubbing for the music, not for their Facebook’s mobile uploads album. So, if you want to dance, long and hard to music you didn’t listen to on the radio on the way over to the club, B018’s for you. If your friend’s birthday sucked, or your date was a flop, redeem yourself and save your night after 2:00AM at B018.
There’s no better feeling than going to a club on any given day, dancing for hours, opening the roof to let the smoke out and the cool in, and eventually let the sunlight flood the dancefloor and bar. My advice to you is, go on a weekday (except Monday, cause it closes) and leave at around 7:00-8:00AM and point your fingers and laugh at all the people stuck in a traffic jam on their way to work or school, while you go home to sleep through the day and recover.
Club: B018 Karantina
Location: Karantina (near Forum)
Music: Underground Electronic
Resident DJ: Gunther & Stamina, Fady Ferraye, Big Al and Ziad
Price: 30,000LL entrance with one drink for walk-ins after 2:00 AM
Door Policy: 18+
The Verdict: Divine