In an unfortunate announcement, Sveta Baar, a beloved nightclub and cultural hub in Tallinn, Estonia, will shut down its operations starting January 1st, 2024. The closure, attributed to many challenges the entertainment industry faces, is a stark reminder of the precarious state of nightlife establishments in the region.
Sveta Baar’s journey began in 2017 as a vintage shop and bar in the Telliskivi district, evolving over the years into one of Tallinn’s premier clubs and concert venues. The venue garnered accolades such as the “Venue of the Year” award at the Estonian Music Industry Awards and inclusion in the prestigious Liveurope venue network. It has been an integral part of the Tallinn Music Week programme since its inception.
Luke Teetsov-Faulkner, one of Sveta Baar’s founders, expressed gratitude to patrons, staff, and the community. “We have always been mission-driven and tried to do a good thing—supporting local people and the community, being principled, inclusive, and honest,” he stated. Teetsov-Faulkner emphasised that the closure is primarily due to economic factors exacerbated by COVID-19, energy and financial crises, restrictive laws, and gentrification.
The closure of Sveta Baar, while partly unique to its circumstances, reflects broader challenges faced by entertainment organisers and nightlife establishments across Estonia. According to bar managers, there needs to be more alignment between the rhetoric surrounding the importance of culture as an economic engine and the legislative and tax policies in place.
Roman Demtšenko, a partner in Sveta Baar, highlighted the widespread nature of the issue on Estonian National Television, stating, “Sveta is not the only one in this situation. Maybe there will be more news of other clubs closing their doors.”
In response to the growing crisis, local nightclubs and concert venues have joined forces to establish the Estonian Nightlife Association (Eesti Ööelu Liit).
Elena Natale, founder of Tallinn’s renowned club HALL, emphasised the need for unity:
“The only appropriate response is to truly collectivise and come together, to fight for ourselves so live music and club culture can exist and thrive in Estonia.”
Helen Sildna, founder of Shiftworks and organiser of Tallinn Music Week, acknowledged the pivotal role played by venues like Sveta in nurturing music careers. She welcomed the initiative of the Estonian Nightlife Association, emphasising the importance of collective efforts to safeguard these cultural beacons.
Over its six-year existence, Sveta Baar hosted various club and live acts, contributing significantly to Tallinn’s music and cultural landscape. The venue also played a crucial role in fostering connections within the Estonian LGBTQ+ communities.
As Estonia faces the potential loss of more iconic venues, the formation of the Estonian Nightlife Association represents a united front in the fight to preserve the vibrancy and diversity of the country’s music and cultural scene.
The association’s immediate priorities include raising awareness and advocating for policy changes, explicitly seeking tax differentiation for live music venues and nightclubs. Natale highlighted the upcoming VAT tax hike, which raises concerns about the financial burden on cultural endeavours in Estonia.
Tartu, Estonia’s oldest city, will host The European Capital of Culture programme this year. The program’s theme is inspired by the artistic concept of the Arts of Survival, which will focus on the knowledge, skills, and values that will help humankind lead a good life in the future. The spotlight is on sustainability, co-creation, local uniqueness, science and technology. You can see the list of events here, one of which is the unda festival, which showcases local and underground club culture through discussions, dancing and an exhibition hosted at the Estonian National Museum and organised by HALL club.