Why have speakeasy bars become more popular

New trend in Moscow: secret bars

| Lifestyle

A bar that keeps its address a secret is nothing absurd, but a trend in Moscow's gastronomy industry. There are more and more non-public locations that can only be visited on the recommendation of a guest.

“Shall we go?” Asks the managing director of the Hurma Management Group, Dmitrij Levizkij. You slip through the curtain and expect to enter a storage room, but the room is decorated with beautiful wallpaper and there are wall sconces and a large mirror on which the outlines of a woman are drawn in lipstick and the inscription "Gulja" is adorned .

If you press the hidden bell button, the door opens. The guests are received by a very stylishly dressed lady - the same Gulja. Besides you, there is only one bartender who works at “Take it easy, darling”. Sometimes, when there is a lot going on, Levitskij stands behind the bar himself. The small room can accommodate just forty visitors. Instead of the wooden or metal chairs that are usual for a traditional bar, there are comfortable armchairs here. And instead of the loud music that is usual in Russian dining establishments, pleasant jazz can be heard here.

Only those who have previously registered by telephone will be admitted. Most of the guests either know Levitskijs personally or are acquaintances of his acquaintances. At the entrance, guests receive a stamp if they want to leave the establishment in between, for example to smoke a cigarette, and then be let in again.

Komzept comes from the USA in the 1920s

The concept of secret bars was born in the USA in the 1920s and 1930s when, during Prohibition, there were taprooms, known as speakeasy bars, behind hidden doors in pharmacies and hairdressing salons. Moscow's oldest speakeasy bar, the "Tschajnaja", has existed since 2003 near the Belorusskaya metro station. Its co-owner, the well-known bartender Roman Milostiwyj, designed the cocktail menu for another location that is not open to everyone, the “Mendeleev Bar” on Petrowka Street. The “Mendeleev Bar” opened in May of last year, the “Take it easy, darling” at the end of November.

Around the same time, Lia Mur, Aljona Yermakowa and Anna Bitschewskaja - the first two are active in the catering sector, the third in tourism - started their “Stay Hungry” project. It combines the format of a restaurant with the idea of ​​a private invitation to dinner. The “Stay Hungry” did not advertise and only feeds 15 to 16 visitors per evening. They come on a special invitation at a specific time to try the dishes that are prepared by amateur chefs.

Rent in Moscow: 900 to 1,650 euros per square meter per year

In the oversaturated restaurant industry, the lack of a figurehead and the lack of classic advertising are becoming a competitive advantage. For example, secrecy has a positive effect on the amount of the lease. Even if the restaurant operator rents the premises for the secret location at market conditions, the costs can still be significantly lower than for traditional restaurants and bars, because one is not so dependent on a prominent location.

According to Anton Belychs, managing partner of DNA Realty, the rent for a square meter in a central location in Moscow averages 900 to 1,650 euros per year, but if you choose a somewhat quieter area as your location, you can get that cost around 50 lower up to 70 percent. “There are even properties in the city center that can be rented for 425 to 600 euros per square meter per year. Basement rooms or rooms that have their entrance on the courtyard side can be rented for between 185 and 425 euros per square meter per year. ”It is no coincidence that the“ Tschajnaja ”and“ Mendeleev Bar ”in the basement and the“ Stay Hungry ”are “Housed in a normal apartment on the first floor of a residential building. “The question is, of course, how do you get people to go down to the basement,” notes Belychs.

Less is more

Secret locations have no advertising budget and usually only acquire their audience through the personal contacts of their founders, who also often serve their guests themselves. This improves the level of service and makes it possible to save on personnel costs.

Another way to expand your customer base is through social networks, with the help of which you can filter out walk-in customers. Many locations have their own Facebook page, but the “Stay Hungry” group, for example, is not open to the public. Aljona Yermakowa, who used to work as a PR manager in the company "Icon Food", has more than 2,500 friends on Facebook, with Levitskij there are around 1,000.

The audience of “Take it easy, darling” is older than in the other locations in Levitsky, where the average is 25 years. The key is that these guests are willing to spend more on the atmosphere than the visitors from the street.

The operators of the secret establishments impose certain restrictions on their guests. Those who accept the rules of the game belong to the “inner circle”, in contrast to the crowd on the street. For example, the guests who come to the “Stay Hungry” and pay a lot for their dinner (the price is the equivalent of just under 40 euros) usually do not know who is going to cook that day and what dishes they will be served . Because the most important thing is not the food, but communication with the other visitors.

No standard cocktails in Moscow's exclusive bars

One of the rules of “Take it easy, darling” is that in principle no simple cocktails such as Long Island, Rum Cola and B-52 are offered here, which are so popular with Russians. "If you mix whiskey with cola, it doesn't matter how long the whiskey was stored in the oak barrel," says Levitskij. "If you drink B-52, what does it matter what ingredients it consists of?" The alcoholic drinks in the secret bars are usually of higher quality compared to the catering facilities for the general public, because the ingredients ( Syrup, juices, fruit market, etc.) are not bought, but prepared on site.

There are no simple cocktails on the menu at the Mendeleev Bar either. If you ask the bartender, he'll probably prepare it, but, says manager Fyodor Lobanowskij, the price for them can be significantly higher than usual: “Because when you run a cocktail bar, you don't just want whiskey Sell ​​cola, but original and complicated cocktails. ”These make up 85 percent of the Mendeleev Bar's turnover and cost the equivalent of between twelve and 15 euros. The average price of a cocktail in the secret bar Levitskijs is about twelve euros. In the other locations it is between 7.50 and twelve euros. A visit to “Take it easy, darling” costs around 40 euros - around 20 percent more than in an average bar.

Does exclusivity also work for the masses in Moscow?

While Levitsky's ordinary bars have amortized after three years - a figure that Rosinter, operator of the largest Russian restaurant chain, also applies for its facilities - the investments for the secret bar - around 90,000 euros - should be in two to two and a half Years do.

Fyodor Lobanowskij from the Mendeleev Bar has a similar goal: “I don't think we would have more visitors if we had a sign outside,” he says. He says that on some days visitors queue up to the neighboring fast-food restaurant to get to the bar.

Even with “Take it easy, darling” the rush is sometimes so great that the guests have to be asked to wait, even if they have reserved a seat in advance by telephone. "For most people, this brings back mysterious memories of their childhood," explains Andrei Petrakow. "Taking a friend with you to where you 'belong' is of course a little reminiscent of a kindergarten, but it's nice."

But if the number of those who “belong” becomes too large, is the place still secret?

Source: Russia Today (Author: Dmitrij Krjukow)

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