ISTANBUL: The upmarket Istanbul Reina club, targeted in a gun attack during New Year celebrations that left at least 39 dead, is the haunt of Turkey’s young secular elite and one of the most prestigious nightspots in the city.
With an idyllic location on the shores of the Bosphorus on the European side of the city and a terrace spilling down to the water’s edge, Reina is the place to be seen in the city.
It’s expensive and hard to get into, with bouncers giving would-be guests a hard time at the entrance to ensure they look sufficiently well-moneyed and beautiful.
The club is popular with foreign visitors and of the 21 victims identified so far, 16 are confirmed to be foreigners.
The most well-heeled patrons can even be taken up to the waterside terrace of the nightclub in boats.
The parties at Reina are legendary, with the action usually not starting until well after midnight and the venue endowed with several restaurants and dance floors.
The view from the terrace is spectacular, just underneath the mighty first bridge across the Bosphorus with the lights of Asia twinkling on the other side.
The bridge is itself now haunted by history and named after the victims of the July 15 coup after it became the site of fierce battles between plotters and protesters.
Even as secularists complained of a creeping Islamisation in the country under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the party carried on at Reina.
Its clientele includes footballers from the top Turkish sides and stars from the country’s much-watched soap operas.
Every weekend their attendance at parties features in the gossip and celebrity pullouts in Turkish media.
The party only ends in the small hours when revellers stagger outside to be whisked home in waiting cars.
But now — as with the November 13, 2015 attack in Paris when gunmen stormed the popular Bataclan concert venue killing 90 people — its name will forever be synonymous with violence.
Footballer Sefa Boydas, who plays full time for Istanbul third division club Beylerbeyi SK and witnessed the attack, said he had been nervous about partying on New Year’s Eve.
“A friend said: ‘It wouldn’t ever happen in a place like Reina’. I said actually the target is places like that,” he said.
The club’s owner Mehmet Kocarslan told the Hurriyet daily the United States had passed on intelligence over the risk of an attack and security had been stepped up including from the sea.
“Extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to conduct attacks in areas where US citizens and expatriates reside or frequent,” the US embassy said in a statement after the attack.