Friday, 8 June 2007

Review: Bar 7 (Бар Семь)

Opening Hours: 12pm-last customer, 7 days
Category: Pre-Party, Bar
Feis Kontrol Rating: Moderate- 3/5
Address: Novaya Ploschad 10, Str. 2 (down alley)
M: Lubyanka
Phone: +7 (495) 730-5547
Website: N/A

In 2006 Bar 7 deservedly won "Best Bar" in the Moscow Nightlife Awards, and a Friday night there will show you why. Bar 7 recently celebrated its first birthday, and while it's facing some stiff competition from several newcomers, it's still a fantastic place to meet up with friends and really get into the mood on a weekend evening.

Bar 7 is located just off Lubyanka Ploschad, and is at the end of one of the narrow alleys that punctuate Novaya Ploschad. On a Friday night the huddle of cars and taxis will indicate its location. Once you make it down the alleyway, a reasonably strict but consistent Feis Kontrol will admit you into the bar. An incongruous flatscreen TV greets you as you wind your way past the coatcheck and bathrooms into the bar. Bar 7 is effectively one medium-sized room, with a capacity for not much more than 100 people. The decor is "minimalist baroque", with comfortable old-style sofas and lamps, and a huge chandelier over the bar.

Bar 7 is a pleasant and quiet bar most of the week, but the time to come is on Friday (and to some degree Saturday) evenings around midnight-2am. This is where Moscow's clubbing crowd comes to get into the mood before heading out. Bar 7 is packed, the crowd dances to a familiar mix of russky-pop, top 40, and a healthy dose of old Russian songs remixed for the new millenium. Girls dance on the bar, and there are plenty of fireworks, both metaphoric and real.

The crowd tends to be an upscale mix of Moscow's party people as well as a high proportion of expats. The smaller location allows a more intimate vibe, and it can sometimes feel like a private party, since so many of the people there know each other.

The bar staff are competant and friendly, drinks are strong, although not cheap (especially cocktails), and getting to the bar and then ordering through the legs of the girls dancing on it can sometimes be an entertaining challenge.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly why Bar 7 has such a fantastic atmosphere. A combination of the space, the crowd, the DJ and the sheer sense of fun makes this a genuinely great venue.

Since the recent opening of a number of other pre-party venues (Simichev, Sky Lounge, Bacardi, Most, Soho Rooms to name a few) Bar 7 isn't quite as packed as it used to be, but in some ways this is a positive, since it gives a little more breathing room while maintaining its great vibe.

About the only major complaint I can muster about Bar 7 is that once the crowd is going, it gets really hot in the bar, especially far from the entrance. More powerful air conditioning would do wonders for partygoers comfort levels.

Overall, Bar 7 is a fantastic place to meet up with friends and from where to launch a big Friday night. The crowd is friendly, the drinks are strong, and the music gets you into the dancing mood. The next few months will be key to see whether Bar 7 will maintain a substantial Friday night following or whether its mojo will fade. Stay tuned.


Thursday, 7 June 2007

The One About Feis Kontrol (Face Control, Фейс Контроль)

So... You've heard about the notorious Feis Kontrol at Russian nightclubs? Pretty much all the stories you've heard are true. You basically have to be rich, beautiful, a regular, or know someone to make it into Moscow's top clubs, bars, and even some restaurants.

That said, it's by no means impossible to get through feis kontrol even if you might not approach the Moscow definition of such lofty standards (remember- mullets are still fashionable here, beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

The most reliable way to get through feis kontrol is to book a table at the club (see article), which involves paying several thousand dollars for you and your friends to have a table and eat and drink up to the limit you paid for the table. Access through feis kontrol is a fringe benefit (although not always guaranteed).

If you're not going to spring for a table, suggestions are as follows. Guys should dress well, since unless you're Russian, you're unlikely to be able to pull off "designer grunge" in the unique style of the Russian male. Women should dress as skimpy and Russian-fashionable as possible.

When you approach the door, identify who the feis kontrol guy (or girl) is, talk to them (not security), and let them know you want to come in. Be polite and confident, as you have every right to be in their club. If they ask you for a club card (which you don't have, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this article), it's generally a polite rejection, but state you don't have one but would like to come in. If you're rejected, don't push the issue, leave the club and go to one of Moscow's other nightclubs. Don't argue or give them a negative reason to remember you.

Speaking Russian is a plus, with English as a backup. The days where expats could expect access to top clubs simply by speaking English are long gone, and most feis kontrol guys I know don't speak English. English may still help you get access to 2nd tier places like Sorry Babushka, XIII, Fabrique, etc.

Ratios and numbers are a key issue. Single or pairs of guys or single or pairs of highly attractive girls are more likely to get in than couples or groups. Any more than three "non-clubgoers" are going to have a hard time getting through any door. Feis Kontrol take a perverse pleasure in splitting up couples, especially if they think they can separate them and get the girls (or guys) into the club without their partners.

If you're in Moscow long-term, get to recognise the feis kontrol people, they're often at other clubs late-night (Krysha or Garage are fav. hangouts), and get to know them, that way you're more likely to gain access next time.

Above all, don't take it personally, or too seriously. It's these guys jobs to keep their club desirable and keep people on their toes. Everyone gets "feised" sometimes, so don't let it ruin your night!