Party like a Russian! Robbie Williams was a bit too late with his hit song, but at least it gives a good tagline for our project: MoscowClubs.com. Todays Russian elite, prefers to party behind closed doors and not to show off anymore. At least this is the general trend and Moscow’s elite clubs are feeling the change. So what does “facecontrol” mean and how to deal with it? We will get to that a bit further down.
Last Thursday I’ve met a good friend, who lives on the “Rublovka”, a village (actually a street) outside of Moscow, where the rich and beautiful are living. He told me, that there are many private parties these days, since his neighbours just don’t want to drive into the city anymore. During the good years we had (quote of a big elite club owner during that time) “around 5000 wealthy people partying in clubs”, while today Moscow’s elite venues compete for a much smaller number and open their doors also for the middle class and foreigners. Yes, even for the underground scene (e.g. the transition of Bessonniza from a posh to an underground venue).
This means, that less vintage champagne bottles are sold, but Russians prefer vodka anyway. The table deposits dropped from $10 000 per table, only 10 years ago, to a $1000 in Moscow’s most elite clubs today. The average table deposit cost is around 50 – 70 000 Rub ($900-1100) these days.
In Moscow, we have 3 different segments in which clubs and bars position themselves. And for sure there are many different flavors of music and styles. There is a high-class segment, a middle class segment and the low-end. You can find a good party in all three segments, but of course the people around you will be different and some venues at the lower end, are not really safe, especially for foreigners. What can happen? You can be robbed on the toilet, someone can steal your wallet or phone, right at the bar. In the worst case, you can get poisoned with a “roofie”, drugs put in your drink, and later robbed and left unconscious on a park bench. It happens every day and even happened to me already.
All three of the above segments have one thing in common and this is, how your Moscow party night starts at any venue: “Facecontrol”. The term got invented in the notorious 90s, when the bouncer defined the entire club and was one of the most important aspects of Moscow’s club life. Still as of today, the doormen, called “facecontrol” are famous people, usually work and report directly to the owner and can even overrule management decisions. If you will see a “FC & DC” remark on a flyer or an event invitation elsewhere, it means “Face Control” & “Dress Code”.
Moscow’s most known doorman is “Pasha Facecontrol”. He stood at the doors of the cities most famous clubs, like Dyagilev. Rumor is, that he used to get $10 000 a night, only to stand at the door of a Russian Oligarchs party on the Côte d’Azur. Today, Pasha is the maker and a co-owner of Duran Bar, one of the cities best venues. Pasha is so famous, that they even made a pop song about him, which landed in the Russian charts. The dentist, by profession, is hated by many (for not letting them into a club), but is actually a very nice guy. I used to work with him at various projects, during the past years. Today Pasha is one of the makers of the new WOW Club.
The beginning of “face control”
It started in the 90s, when the newly rich Russian elite mingled in their favorite clubs. Others wanted to be a part of the scene and paid off the door men, to be able to get inside these clubs, which were closed for the general public. The club owners soon understood, how to make a business out of this. They hired loyal people, who stood at the door and sold tables for enormous deposit or booking fees. Up to $10 000 per table (and more) were paid to get inside and be a part of the scene. Everyone wanted to be inside these clubs, to be able to show off to each other.
While this doesn’t work anymore in most places (there are still a few of these club dinosaurs left). The facecontrol concept stayed and became an important part of Moscow’s nightlife. Even low class venues have a guy standing at the door, who decides, if you are getting in or not.
Who is who?
It is important to understand the “who is who?” at the door, when you arrive. The black guys in uniforms are usually security guards and have no decision power. Someone in the back (or next to them) is the “face-control” and making the decision, if you are let in or not. It’s useless to charm or argue with the security guards, although a proper behaviour and greeting will always be appreciated and also recognized by the decision maker, standing in the background. If you look closely, you may see that some guards have earplugs and radios. They will get instructions from the “face-control”, who may see you on a camera or some spot inside, behind the door. Chances are high, that he has seen you already from far away, when you were approaching. Keep that in mind, when taking a quick pee in the corner or doing anything else, that could make you look bad.
A common mistake of foreigners with “face” is the result of a mis-understanding and lost in translation, since most guards don’t speak English. You may arrive at a door and the guard will ask you to wait, since the face-control guy went inside to warm-up, visit the toilet or get something. The guard may simply be waiting for the “go” or “no” decision on his radio. The guests understand the “wait message” as a no-go and start to argue or give shit to the guards, since they believe the guards are the decision makers. Arguing or complaining, for sure doesn’t get you inside the club. It’s better to stay calm and to respond in a normal way. “OK? Wait?” or “No? Go?”. Thumbs up or down will do as well. Even the most stupid guards with no English language skills will understand that and let you know, what the deal is.
A “No!” is a “No!” and usually it’s useless to argue with anyone at the clubs door, unless you have some sort of joker in your pocket. May it be, that you know someone from the clubs management, or your friends are inside. Even better, if your friends have booked a table. In which case, they will ask you to call your friends, so they will come and pick you up. In most clubs, the face-control guy can still refuse you and overrule even the director of a club, so better be nice and patient. A table booking usually gets you inside the club with ease, but even with a table booking you can be refused entry, if you are rude, drunk or not dressed according to their rules.
If you are refused, just accept it and move on. No matter, how frustrated you are about this. Making a scene is a waste of your energy and erases your chance to enter the club at another time. Sometimes, the venue is just overfilled at the time being and you can return an hour later and you’ll get inside. It is worth asking (or trying).
In any case, I suggest you always have a back-up plan and a few more clubs and bars, where you can head to, if you get refused somewhere. You shouldn’t allow the refusal or facecontrol to kill your mood and your party night.
Sure, it sucks if you get refused at three or four clubs in a row, but then there is some other problem with you, your group, your friend(s) or you are simply very unlucky. It happened to me a few times in Moscow, but it was totally my fault, because I’ve just not been dressed correctly for the venues, I (actually my friends) chose. Or I am simply not the guy for that particular venue. If am not an actor or movie star. Why would I want to hang out with the who is who of the Russian theatre, film and tv scene?
How to get inside? What are they looking for?
You can’t look inside of a person’s head and it is possible, that the facecontrol guy simply doesn’t like your face or the tone of your voice. But, generally speaking, a refusal is usually caused by 1-3 factors, which you can avoid.
No matter, if you want to enter a high class venue or an underground club, there is usually some sort of dress code. Inform and prepare yourself! If they don’t communicate it on their Facebook page or website, then just check some photos of the last parties from this venue and set yourself up accordingly.
Elite Club Dress Code
Moscow’s high-class venues want to see expensive clothes and I figured out, that their face-control guys have a shoe fetish. You will probably have a hard time, if you come in H&M clothes or alike. Sneakers are generally not allowed, no matter which color they are. Don’t come too casual, even if your clothes are expensive and fashionable. Here are some shoes, which are generally not allowed in Moscows elite clubs: Sneakers (even cool ones and limited editions), UGG’s, Caterpillars or other heavy boots, Flip-Flops. As for clothes, try to wear an elegant or business outfit. Jeans are accepted in most cases, some venues require a shirt, although a jacket is not required. Shorts are no where accepted! Holes in pants or other clothes neither, even if its fashionable and done on purpose. For women, high heels will be more accepted than ballerinas or flat shoes. Wear your most expensive jewelry and also don’t show up too casual. For the foreign ladies among you: Russian women wear sexy and clothes and heavy makeup. You’ll have to compete with that, at least at the door. Russians spend a lot of time with getting their hair and nails done, before they head out and the facecontrol looks and recognizes this effort and the details.
Even underground venues have a dress-code. You won’t be able to enter many of the cool and trendy places, if you wear a suit or shirt. At the “democratic” Propaganda, you won’t get inside, wearing a tie or a jacket. In other underground venues neither, if you come too “normal” and casual. Moscow’s underground uniform is “all black”.
No matter, which dresscode is required. Make sure, your outfit is properly and in order, before you meet the face control. Also make sure you wear clean shoes, etc.
Not that you run into the same problem, as me a while go. I stood infront of Mix Club and we were refused entry, because of me. I have a pair of skinny jeans (which I retired after that) that had the tendency to have an open zipper. So, I end up standing infront of the bouncer, a little drunk at 5 am, with my pants wide open downstairs, flashing my underwear. The guy had mercy, though. After a good laugh and telling me, what the problem was (so I can fix it), he let us inside.
2. Drunk? Drugged up?
A Moscow facecontrol bouncer has seen it all and immediately understands, if you had one too many drinks, or you took something else to enlighten your evening. They won’t let you inside, if they think that you could become a problem or disturb any of the other guests. So better get your act together and give your best to pretend to be sober, while you are waiting to get inside the club.
3. Groups & friends
Usually we don’t go out alone and are accompanied by someone else. Often these guys are the problem. May it be, that they are not dressed well, being drunk or simply just being too many. Here are some unspoken rules.
- Never come in groups of more than 4 people (unless you have paid for a table). If you are more than 4, split up in several groups, arriving slightly delayed in time.
- Don’t bring (too many) girls (or men) with you. There are enough in the club.
- Make sure your friends fit in the club in terms of style and personality. You may be a great fit, but are your friends?
- Don’t get hyper and yell around in front of the club. Stay calm and controlled, even as a group, with all of that excitement for the upcoming party.
Last, but not least. Prepare yourself and try to speak at least a bit of Russian. A simple “Strastvutje” (a formal hello) or “Dobre vecher!” (Good evening) with a smile, will be much appreciated and break the ice. At least, it worked for me in 95% of the cases.
Guest list & a table booking
A guest list slot doesn’t mean, you can avoid the clearing of the face-control guy, but it usually means, that you know someone inside of the club and are primarily, a welcomed member of their community. Note that many venues don’t run a guestlist at all. Others have a guest-list and you may find your way to get on it, but you are still refused, so your list slot is worthless, because one of the above mentioned reasons. The easiest way for the club to refuse you, is to not find your name on the guest-list. It is a nice way of saying, that you are not conform with their facecontrol requirements.
A table booking typically gets you inside with ease and some dress code issues will be overlooked, unless you hit a total NO-GO, like the shoes, I mentioned above. Tables are not so expensive anymore and usually you pay a deposit, which means you will get drinks and food for the spent amount. If you are in a group, larger than 4 people, booking a table may totally be worth it, especially if you split the cost. A table booking will get you inside with ease and a VIP status, apart from the respect of the other table owners and lots of beautiful girls, waiting for you to invite them to your table.
That’s about it. This should work in all 3 segments. From the top to the lower class. My 5 cents about Moscow’s clubs door polices. And for sure it helps to say “Spasibo” (Thank You) and “Dobre noche” (Good Night) or “Dobe utra” (Good morning) to the facecontrol guy and the security guards, when you leave the venue. It will be remembered next time, when you return.