Fans partying at the World Cup in Moscow are downing so much beer that they are nearly drinking parts of the city dry, with some bars saying they get close to running out each night.
For almost a week, tens of thousands of foreign and local fans have been turning the heart of Moscow into a street party each night, gathering in the area around the Kremlin in a huge tide of chanting, dancing and drinking, which doesn't recede until the very early hours of the morning.
“They drink half a tonne of beer each night!” said Evgeny Gorbanov, a bouncer at Let’s Rock Bar, whose establishment has been overflowing with fans every night since the month-long tournament began.
Half a dozen bars said they had almost ran out of beer in the first few days of the competition and had had to quickly increase orders to keep up with the demand.
“We hadn’t counted on it,” said Nikolai Vladik, manager at Ketch-Up, a burger bar. “On the first day, it got pretty tough. But we’ve prepared now,” he said.
Like many residents in Moscow, the bar staff said they had been caught off guard by the avalanche of fans and the scale of the partying. At Kamchatka, an all-night bar that sells beers in plastic cups, staff said they had sharply increased their beer orders. At the restaurant Dante, manager Nadia Desyatelik said fans were drinking 200 liters a night, compared to the 30 they normally sell.
Several shell-shocked, but happy-looking bar staffers and managers said fans need not worry - they would keep the beer taps flowing.
Asked what the fans drink when they run out of beer, Vladik - with a wry laugh - said. “Vodka.”
The World Cup street parties - flooded each night with flag-wrapped fans - are unfolding in one of Moscow’s toniest neighborhoods, sitting between the famous Bolshoi Theater and Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office.
The epicenter of the revelry is Nikolskaya Street, a long, pedestrianized drag that leads directly onto Red Square and the Kremlin. Fans head there after each win.
Each night, a bobbing, deafening mass of people from a bewildering mix of countries mingle — Mexican fans in sombreros and wrestling masks, Egyptians dressed as pharaohs, Russian fans teaching Argentinians folk dances, to name a few.
On Tuesday night, after Russia beat Egypt 3-1 to effectively put them through to the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in almost 30 years, a vast flood of euphoric Russians poured into the streets again.
Some of the fans themselves have said that they were also impressed by how much was being consumed, with some saying other host cities were being drained too.
“That’s crazy,” said Per Engstrom, a Swedish fan sitting with three friends drinking beer on a nearby terrace. “We were in Nizhny Novogorod and they also ran out of beer,” he said referring to a host city about 6 hours from Moscow.
“At 11 o’clock! Before lunch!”
“It’s not ok,” he added, laughing.
Some bar staff said they were nervous that beer suppliers might miss vital deliveries.
But Baltika, the Russian unit of Carlsberg told Reuters that while there was increased risk of supply disruption during the World Cup, their business was so far able to handle demand. Heineken also told Reuters sales were strong and the brewer did not yet see any challenges to its supply.
The party has surprised Muscovites all the more because few can remember anything like it in the city. Drinking on the street is illegal in Russia, carrying a fine of between $7 - $23.
A growing emphasis from the Kremlin on public discipline, combined with an official suspicion towards street gatherings, has made wild public displays unwise.
But those rules seem to have been suspended for the World Cup. Russian police have stood by and watched as fans have clambered up lamp posts and hung flags from buildings. On Nikolskaya Street, Argentinian fans have covered a monastery with team banners. Riot police, usually dour, have been addressing people with rare politeness at security points.
Russians are marveling at the new light-touch approach. Many are also delighted by the party atmosphere on the streets. The revelry has so far been good-natured - with few reports of trouble.
“Everyday is a weekend,” said Liza Yakushenko, a worker at a cocktail bar, Cuba Libre, which is open 24 hours a-day.