Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Review: Zona (Зона)

Opening Hours: Fri-Sat, 11pm-7am
Category: Mid-Range, Megaclub
Feis Kontrol Rating: Low - 2/5
Address: Leninskaya Sloboda Ul., 19, building 2
M: Avtozavodskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 229-1428

Note: Please note my caveats regarding out-of-centre venues here.

The first thing you notice pulling up to jail-themed Zona is a gogo dancer gyrating in a cylindrical aquarium out the front of the club. In the thickly falling snow the other evening, this was a striking introduction to this extraordinary place. Having had our expectations dramatically lowered by other nearby venues, Zona was an extraordinary feast for the senses, combining wacky design, crazy spectacles and an entertaining crowd.

The venue is HUGE, with five floors, countless rooms, and capacity for 7,000+ patrons. There are confusing options available entry, with feis kontrol seemingly directing those who can afford it towards "VIP" entry, of which there are multiple levels ranging from 600-1000RUB. The "VIP XO" allows you to Level 4 (seriously worth it for for entertainment value), and the "VIP Bordeaux" 5th floor (not to be confused (despite similarity of decor) with strip club Bordo) with restrained music, plush lounges, more semi-naked girls, and miniature side-rooms (with locks) for couples who wish a little more privacy for their coupling.

Once you find your way into the club, past the steel gates, barbed wire, and other prison-like accoutrements, you find yourself on the ground floor, where a slowly revolving bar is enough to seriously disconcert you (even if sober). There is also an R&B dance floor with elevated moving sections. In summer months, the first floor offers a huge summer terrace, which apparently houses a waterfall and goldfish pond.

The second level contains one of the largest dancefloors in Moscow, with decent (but not particularly adventurous) heavy-duty house music, enthusiastic gogo dancers, and semi-naked women pacing, dancing, or reclining on the bar. Zona's decor follows the jail theme until you reach the 4th floor, with liberal use of steel, bars, grey/blue colouring and concrete. While on the 2nd floor, we were served with a poignant reminder that we weren't at Krysha Mira anymore, as a group of muscular young gentlemen demonstrated their physical prowess by headbutting each other in the chest on the dance floor. It's these cultural interations (combined with regional devushka fashion) that make ex-centre exploration so rewarding.

The third floor is the most prison-oriented of them all, almost completely given over to rows of "cells" with bare wooden benches behind steel bars for patrons to chill with friends and drink.

For those lofty enough to make it to the fourth VIP XO level, an entirely different scene awaits. In the "chill" section, a labyrinth of wooden corridors, punctuated with glass cages with semi-naked male and female dancers, weave around elaborately-themed chillout rooms to house groups of friends, passionate couples, or passionate groups of friends. A raised glass platform hosts more exotic acts, such as the 2+ metre albino anaconda which confronted us as it writhed around a topless dancer. Moving further through the 4th floor, you emerge into a strange fantasy-land, not unlike what I'd expect if Alice in Wonderland were a nightclub. Gold-plated wrought iron, plush upholstery, more dancers and a glass floor, through which the poor people can be seen milling in the non-VIP chillout area below. A diminutive contortionist did his thing while the crowd thronged the dancefloor, and once again, while I'm willing to give the dancers the benefit of the doubt at regional places, the hairy legs of one of them encouraged me to keep my distance, lest I end up with a hairball in my drink from her vigorous gyrations.

The vaunted 5th floor, as mentioned earlier, was a much quieter affair, seemingly designed for people to show how wealthy they think they are, or for couples to retire to more cubicles.

Zona also offers patrons the ability to purchase a "Gold Card" for free VIP entry. Entertainingly, they "urge you not to turn to the usual staff of the club because in this case, we will not be able to guarantee a high level of service [to gold card members]". It also stresses "We do not offer guests drugs or intimate services". Given the scantily clad "dancers" wandering the chill-out VIP zone and the proliferation of private rooms, I'm skeptical of this second advice. For this and other entertaining cautions (and the confusing explanation of how the VIP entry tariffs work), visit their site.

Drinks are reasonably priced, but higher than other out-of-centre venues. a fairly creative mix of cocktails is available, but sadly (as is becoming typical), no redbull.

Overall, Zona is a maelstrom of styles and a feast for the senses. Serious DJ's are known to give concerts here, but the real attraction is the bizarre establishment and the entertaining and friendly patrons. If you're tired of the centre scene and want a truly different venue for a night out, definitely hit Zona.


Gorgeous Ol' Eve Loves Vanilla. You? said...
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Nick said...

During my stay in moscow, i had the chance to go there on a wensday night. I had a great time :) Unfortunetly it wasnt packed, just a small friendly crowd there was. Friendly bartenders too :) Only one inconvenient though, lol.. the music was so loud on the main floor that it was shut down 3 times lol So the DJ was trying to turn on the music again by ligthing his lighter to see the buttons on his deck.. lol Otehr than that is was great, too many hall ways for me though after i had a buzz on, plus that turning bar is a pain in the ass.. when your talking to a girl for a while, and then you notice that your now on the other side of the bar, and your drink still in the same place. God bless russian girls :p
Moscow Forever ;)