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By Doug Gray, Senior Reporter

The famous HELP sign will stay standing until early 2010 after yet another stay of execution by Sergio Cabral, photo by Doug Gray
The famous HELP sign will stay standing until early 2010 after yet another stay of execution by Sergio Cabral, photo by Doug Gray.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Despite reports to the contrary over the last few weeks, months, indeed years, Help Discoteca in Copacabana is still open, and seemingly doing better than ever.

It is testament to the global reputation of the huge club on Avenida Atlantica that so many news column inches have been devoted to reporting its potential closure, dating back as far as 2006. It is also a testament to the complexities of interests that it remains open until the start of 2010.

Opened in 1984, the brainchild of Chico Recarey and at the time the largest club in South America, it symbolized all that was decadent about Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s. Today, however, it is known to many around the world as the epicenter of Rio de Janeiro’s sex trade, and as such has courted controversy with locals desperate to clean up their neighborhood despite the legal nature of its business.

While operating brothels is outlawed in Brazil, getting paid or indeed paying for sex is entirely legal. The government has stood by the position – as recently as 2005 it turned its back on US anti-HIV aid to the tune of $40m by refusing to sign the anti-prostitution pledge that accompanied it. Never-the-less, the idea of having such a famous symbol of prostitution in an area designated as a focal point for the 2016 Olympics has become increasingly controversial for them.

Copacabana is set for a clean up ahead of its huge role in the 2016 Olympics, photo by Doug Gray
Copacabana is set for a clean up ahead of its huge role in the 2016 Olympics, photo by Doug Gray.

Promotion of sex tourism is also illegal in Brazil, although something of a legal gray area and easily circumvented, and President Lula and Sergio Cabral will be at pains to keep it even further than arms length from any Olympic entanglement that could impact on the positive effects of Rio de Janeiro’s hosting of The Games.

The date for the final demolition of Help is yet to be set, but will be held off until at least January 2010 after Governor Cabral announced the latest delay last week. A tribunal that was held for the workers at the club found in their favor, awarding them more time – including the profitable Christmas period – to find new work.

What is certain, however, is that in its place will be built the Museum of Sound and Image after an international competition was held for the design of the replacement building. Installing an equally iconic building to the site has of course in turn brought its own controversies, but the ultra-modern new museum looks to cut short any “saudades” that might be felt for the old premises and what it came to represent.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I went to Help with my husband a couple of years ago and to be honest, I had a great time! Yes, the place is full of prostitutes and horny gringos and it makes for some fantastic people watching! Laughed a lot, danced a lot, had a good time. It will be strange to not see the big yellow building there anymore, though am looking forward to the new museum. Times are changing here, this year you really notice it.

  2. The website of Discoteca Help seems to be down… Does this mean its closed now? Hope not since I should be in Rio in a few weeks…

  3. it is so sad,help closed for ever ! many people arund the worl will miss hel a lot
    not only for the girls also for nice warm and save ambient this club was very spezial,copacabana will be more ugly in the future without help.saudade

  4. this is not fair,help never made any problems,it was the savest place in rio ,no fights no trouble at all,also normal tourist allways came back every year to enjoy the club,i feel very sorry for the girls and all the tourist and clients of help it was the last real disco feeling very classic.rio will loose not win without such a nice disco.we all feel very very sad

  5. Help Disco is closed! Very sad. I read on the internet in brazilian newspaper, that Help had the last night open the 8 jan. 2010. The demolition started the 10 of jan.!!
    I had come to brasil every year around christmas and new year for the past 8 years, and I sure wil be missigt some good night in Help.
    Hope there will be another disco like Help another place in Rio? If anyone know some plans for another disco, let us know.

  6. I too was sadden by the closing of HELP.Visiting Rio will not be the same.It is said that the disco was closed for soliciting sex,but i have never seen any explicit sexual behaviour been carried out in the club,or serious fights or dealing in drugs of anykind whatsoever.Can anyone tell me which night club in the world there is that someone is not picked up?
    The girls in Help allways carry themselves in a very clean,sexty and attractive way……much more so than i can say for other clubs i have visited around the world.
    If the government problem is controlling prosetution,then they might want to think again,they had control on protetution by keeping them in help…..now with help closed they will be all over Rio 24 hours a day.Does the government stop to think where the girls will go now that there is no HELP?They will continue to work,only now they will be working in the streets,and in the same area along with the ones that did not work in HELP.The problem has just intensefied,especially since the girls know that they will not have to pay a club cover charge,,or pay for drinks,they can work 24 hours a day,their attire will not be as costly+++++this is where all the tourist hang out.

  7. I was looking really forward to visiting this place on my first trip to rio this year. Iv been putting off a visit to Rio for a few years now, wish I had not now. Oh well im sure some other place will come to the forefront for brazilian girls and horny gringos.

  8. It is a shame that the famous HELP Discoteca had to be closed. It was a living piece of Rio’s culture, very popular in Brazil. Luckily, there are some solid alternatives to this. Some interesting links for all the guys wanting to prepare themselves for the fun:

    a. http://www.riofortourists.com/closure-of-help-disco/ – a place to read more about the closure of HELP disco

    b. http://www.balconyrioapartments.com/ – a place where you can rent apartments near Balcony bar

  9. I have been to Rio 12 times in the last 10 years and stayed 1 block from HELP. It was always at the top of my itenerary list for things to do at night. I was there Dec 09 for a couple of weeks to show an old friend around and he was really impressed with HELP. I have been a bartender/MGR for about 15 years in the past and HELP ranks up at the top of my list. I live in TEXAS and no bar here, Miami, New York, Las Vegas, L.A. or Acapulco I have ever partied at could stand up to HELP . There are so many things politicians could improve on in Rio, closing HELP was a mistake and will soarly be missed. I will treasure my souveneir shirt and videos I got from there to remember this great place, not to mention all the friends!!!.

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