Many nightclubs choose who can enter, on bases other than just age, e.g. dress code and guest list. This is used to make their status as a nightclub more "exclusive". Quite often, there are no clear policies governing entry to a nightclub, thereby allowing the doormen to deny entry to anybody at their discretion.
Many nightclubs will only allow entry by association,such as the former Paradise Garage and Playboy Club. A number of gay nightclubs that prefer to cater to an exclusively male clientele will deny entry to a group of lesbians but will welcome a lesbian with a number of male gay friends.
In most cases, entering a nightclub requires a flat fee called a cover charge. Some clubs waive or reduce the cover charge for early arrivers, special guests or women (in the United Kingdom this latter option is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 but the law is rarely enforced and open violations are frequent). Friends of the doorman or the club owner may gain free entrance. Sometimes, especially at larger clubs in Continental European countries, one only gets a pay card at the entrance, on which all money spent in the discothèque (often including the entrance fee) is marked. Sometimes, entrance fee and cloakroom costs are paid by cash and only the drinks in the club are paid using a pay card.
Many nightclubs enforce a dress code in order to ensure a certain type of clientele is in attendance at the venue. Some upscale nightclubs ban attendees from wearing trainers (sneakers) or jeans, while other nightclubs will advertise a vague "dress to impress" dress code that allows the bouncers to discriminate at will against those vying for entry to the club. Many exceptions are made to nightclub dress codes, with denied entry usually reserved for the most glaring rule breakers or those thought to be unsuitable for the party. Certain nightclubs like fetish nightclubs may apply a dress code (BDSM) to a leather-only, rubber-only or fantasy dress code. The dress code criterion is often an excuse for discriminatory practices, such as in the case of Carpenter v. Limelight Entertainment Ltd.
Exclusive Boutique Nightclubs
Large cosmopolitan cities that are home to large affluent populations (such as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and London) often have what are known as exclusive boutique nightclubs. This type of club typically has a capacity of less than 200 occupants and a very strict entrance policy, which usually requires an entrant to be on the club's guest list. While not explicitly members only clubs, such as Soho House, exclusive nightclubs operate with a similar level of exclusivity. As they are off limits to most of the public and ensure the privacy of guests, many celebrities favor these types of clubs to other, less exclusive, clubs which do not cater as well to their needs. Another differentiating feature of exclusive nightclubs is, in addition to being known for a certain type of music, they are known for having a certain type of crowd (for instance, a fashion-forward, affluent crowd or a crowd with a high concentration of fashion models. Many exclusive boutique clubs market themselves as being a place where one can socialize with models and celebrities. Affluent patrons who find this marketing message appealing are often willing to purchase bottle service at a markup of several times the retail cost of the liquor. London's most exclusive boutique nightclubs include Amika, Cirque Du Soir, Project, The Box, and The Rose Club. These venues are frequently visited by an array of A-List celebrities from the fashion, film, and music industries. All are located in London's prestigious Mayfair, except Cirque Du Soir and The Box, which are both located in London's sex capital, Soho, and the both have a more risque theme.
Many nightclubs operate a "guest list" that allows certain attendees to enter the club for free, or at a reduced rate. Some nightclubs have a range of unpublished guest list options ranging from free, to reduced, to full price with line by-pass privileges only. Nightclub goers who are on the guest list often have a separate queue and sometimes a separate entrance from those used by full price-paying attendees. It is common for the guest list line-up to be as long or longer than the full-paying or ticketed queues. Some nightclubs allow clubbers to register for the guest list through their websites.