Key Tallinn live music venue & nightclub Sveta Baar to shut down, other venues to form the Estonian Nightlife Association

Author Hernan Osuna - 13.12.2023

A popular Tallinn nightclub, live venue and cultural hub, Sveta Bar, is set to close its doors on January 1st 2024 with the venue stating that the various challenges facing the industry being the main catalyst and the closure of other venues in the upcoming years can not be ruled out.

Sveta Bar began as a vintage shop and bar in 2017 in the Telliskivi district and over the years it developed into one of the most popular clubs and concert venues in the city. The space has won the “Venue Of The Year” award at the Estonian Music Industry awards and was also added to the Liveurope venue network. It has been a part of the Tallinn Music Week programme since the very first year.

We would like to thank the visitors, staff and everyone who has been involved in one way or another. We have always been mission-driven and tried to do a good thing. Supporting local people and the community, being principled, inclusive and honest, said Luke Teetsov-Faulkner, one of the bar’s founders.

He added that the bar’s closure is ultimately due to a combination of mostly economic factors. The Covid-19 crisis, energy and economic crises, restrictions and laws, war, gentrification. Higher prices for absolutely everything. Tourism in Estonia is at its lowest level since 2010, said Teetsov-Faulkner.

According to the bar managers, Sveta’s closure is partly a one-off story, but it also speaks to the overall trend and current situation faced by many entertainment organizers and nightlife establishments in the country.

They add that while there is a lot of talk about the importance of culture as an economic engine, legislation and tax policies are not in line with that type of thinking, and appear to reflect a systematic neglect of contemporary music and culture by the Estonian state.

Speaking on the Estonian National Television morning programme “Terevisioon,” Roman Demtšenko, a partner in Sveta Bar, said that the venue’s closure is a clear example highlighting the current state of affairs in the sector.

“Having interacted with various venues, I can confidently say that Sveta is not the only one in this situation. Maybe there will be more news coming of other clubs having to also close their doors.added Demtšenko. 

As a response to the situation, local nightclubs and concert venues have formed the Estonian Nightlife Association (Eesti Ööelu Liit), which will be the representative organization for businesses in the sector. 

For years we’ve been working mostly independently, but with the situation being as it is and a new tax hike on the way, the only appropriate response is to truly collectivize and come together, to fight for ourselves so live music and club culture can exist and thrive in Estonia,” said Elena Natale, the founder of Tallinn’s famed club HALL.

Our first priority is to make ourselves known and to make our voice heard. When it comes to policy, our goal is to achieve a tax differentiation for live music venues and nightclubs. The upcoming VAT tax hike that takes it up to 22% is one of, if not the highest, in Europe for cultural endeavours, added Natale.

The founder of Shiftworks and organiser of the showcase festival Tallinn Music Week, Helen Sildna, commented on the situation: Music venues like Sveta, are the cornerstone of contemporary music life, by providing regular work to artists and the sector. To grant a diverse music life, we need to identify key players, who nurture careers in music from week to week. No question that art will reach its audience through galleries and museums, orchestras and theatre at concert and theatre halls. Music clubs will need a similar status of their own – to be recognised as irreplaceable spaces for musicians and audiences to grow together. It is hard to imagine TMW 2024 without Sveta, it is hard to think of Tallinn without Sveta. Building a brand, finding an audience, developing a scene and taking care of music culture, as they did, is a deeply unique work of risk-taking, commitment and curatorial smarts. I welcome the initiative of Estonian Nightlife Association, as only by joining forces and making our case heard and understood, we can be better in future at safeguarding these beacons that hold together the unique fabric of our diverse music culture. Thank you Sveta for these bold and brilliant years that inspired us all!.

Over the last six years Sveta has boasted a diverse programme of both club and live acts. Here is but a fraction of artists that performed there: Boy Harsher, Molchat Doma, SHXCXCHCXSH, UNIIQU3, Umru, Lebanon Hanover, A Place To Bury Strangers, Shortparis, Author & Punisher, Xiu Xiu, HEALTH, She Past Away, Die Selektion, Pablo Bozzi, Bored Lord, Boris.

In addition to being a live venue and club, Sveta was also an integral part of both the Russian-Estonian community and held strong ties to the LGBTQ+ community in Tallinn and beyond with the BÄM nights. Various events have also included collaborations with youth groups such as Art Of Mosh, fashion brand Racer Worldwide, second hand markets, flash tattoo days, theatre and record fairs.