The prominent Pratersauna nightclub reopens after renovation

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Martin Ho

The rumor mill was abuzz: Last month, Martin Ho, the Dots Group entrepreneur, sent out invitations titled Heute wie Damals (Today as Before). The announcement offered 500 lucky winners a lifetime free entry to the recently reopened and ever-infamous Pratersauna club, hidden in the Prater woods a stone’s throw from the WU. Shared by 6,000 on Facebook, it was an ingenious PR move by Ho, already a player in Vienna’s night life with his hip-hop club VIE I PEE (adjacent to Pratersauna) under the motto “We bring Miami to Vienna.” The Dots empire includes sushi restaurants, a supermarket food line, an art gallery… and night clubs.

Heute wie Damals resonates uncomfortably with some of the club scene’s most hardcore aficionados, often comparing Vienna unfavorably to Berlin and London. The scene is like an inverted Four Weddings & a Funeral – first declared deader than a Seniorenheim polka night, before another marriage of a trashy space and a well-connected promoter reignites the locals’ love affair.

The Pratersauna was one of these bright lights. Opened as a halböffentliche (semi-public) sauna in 1965, it soon acquired an unsavory reputation as a swinger club and Russian mafia dive. It closed in 2008, reopening a year later as a club by Hennes Weiss and Stefan Hiess (I am not making this up). Only partially renovated, the club’s Berlinesque trashy chic appealed to the new electronic generation.

Death and Transfiguration
The best events, like Prater Unser, entered with the code “In Nomine Party,” drew a thousand “nuns” and “priests” clutching communion wafers, with international DJs like Suff Daddy and local heroes from FM4 and Affine Records.  It was not considered a good night unless you were still there, poolside and barely conscious, at 14:00 the next afternoon. The large garden and terrace surrounding the old swimming pool allowed events to start at about15:00, with special events such as the “Help for Japan” charity benefit which united the Viennese art, music, fashion and restaurant scene.

Last year came the dreaded funeral – Weiss sold up and moved to NYC. After only a brief period of mourning, Ho announced a renovation and expansion of the poolside garden. The weekend-long opening party featured Djebali (FR), Chez Damier (US), Moonin (DE) and Motsa (AT).

Locals complain that Vienna lacks the number and size of clubs found in other capitals. Any loss is felt like a shockwave, portending imminent, tsunami-level doom to the entire insular scene. The simple truth is, the city’s smaller size and conservative history has long resisted a commercially stable club scene. But for insiders – the diehards with first dibs on the 500 lifetime membership cards – Vienna has enough dark and dirty spaces to develop a decent hangover on good music, liberal drugs and cheap beer.

Vienna has many authentically degenerate underground locations – creepy saunas, functioning bordellos, shady wartime locations. Far from the chic facades of the Palais that epitomize Vienna to unwitting tourists, the savvy hedonist enjoys excellent music while a dominatrix works a paddle next door. Ho may clean up Pratersauna, but the hovering ghosts of the ’70s that defined Viennese laissez-faire live on amid the ravers of ­tomorrow. Amen.


 

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Pratersauna
2., Waldsteingartenstraße 135
(01) 7291927

 

 

 

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Following studies in Anthropology at UCL, Film at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Law at Loyola, Andrew worked for Miramax Films, 20th Century Fox Studios, and won two awards as a public relations counsel at Ruder Finn. After seeing the US political system from the inside while working for the VOA at a Democratic & a Republican political convention, Andrew returned to Europe to make documentary films, including "Vinyl: Tales from the Vienna Underground", which premiered at Karlovy Vary. He is currently curating for a film festival, developing new film projects, and developing an organic food app