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Soviets invade Copper

COPPER MOUNTAIN – The Pravda’s ground, raw steel bar hasn’t had a chance to show even a drop of splashed vodka, and already, women are crawling on its polished surface and grinding out some moves of their own.

Security – dressed as KGB in dark trenchcoats and black, pulled-down hats – opened the heavy, riveted metal doors to the Pravda Vodka Bar for the first time Friday, April 11, just in time for Copper Mountain’s wild Sunsation 2003 celebration. The nightclub recreates the atmosphere of the Soviet era with its red walls, red lighting, red velvet curtains and dungeon-esque restrooms.

“The secure, intimate setting gets people out of their shell,” said Greg Silas, general manager. “They let loose a little more. About 35 to 50 percent (of the patrons) last weekend were women, which means they feel secure here.”



The steel bar is stocked with about 40 vodkas, and soon Pravda will offer infused, or flavored, vodkas ranging from pepper to orange-mandarin.

The artistic bottles – most with an icy, frosted look, some emanating a cool blue – are enough to entice any drinker to order the imports over the less intriguing, clear American bottles stamped with a label. And, the imported vodka tends to go down smoother.



Pravda offers its high-quality spirits icy cold – four shots for $12 or 10 shots for $25 – from Sweden, England, Canada, the United States, Holland, Scotland, Norway, France, Italy, and of course, the granddaddies of vodka, Russia and Poland.

The nightclub offers rare vodkas not found in bars or liquor stores in the area – like Precis from Sweden, Kutskova from Russia and Iceberg from Canada. In fact, the alcohol is so difficult to obtain that about 10 brands are on back order.

Along with the Russian speciality, Pravda sells other hard liquor and beers – mostly microbrews and imports to add a more European feel.

Though the novelty of sampling exclusive vodkas may bring people in the door, Silas is convinced clubbers are looking for more than a stiff one.

“Our opinion is people don’t come here to buy alcohol,” Silas said. “They come here for other reasons – to get away, tell stories, dance. They come to be entertained. Alcohol is the support mechanism for that.”

The Pravda scene is all about mellow lounging in the early evening, followed by intrigue and adventure that escalates as darkness settles in – often leading to a frenzy of bar-top dancing.

DJs will spin tunes about five nights a week during the winter season and about twice a week in the summer.

“With the opening of Pravda, Copper Mountain will offer a nightlife experience previously unavailable anywhere in the Rockies,” he said. “Now, the caliber of nightlife in the Village at Copper will be on par with the excellence of the resort’s daytime activities.”

“We like to say it’s a big city feel without the big city attitude,” said Mark Lowe, spokesman for Pravda. “It has the sophistication of nightclubs in the city with the traditional warmth and hospitality that people in the Rockies are known for.”

Silas was based in Montreal before moving to Copper to open Pravda. He has traveled worldwide, and some of his favorite bars are Russian vodka bars. He tried to open a tea shop after spending time in Taiwan, but found teetotalers too fussy and too slow to sip their tea. To make up for a lack of profits, he added an alcoholic iced tea bar to the store, and discovered that liquor is quicker. He plans on opening a series of theme bars – the next will be an Irish pub across the lake from Pravda, which he hopes to open in November.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

Russia built its empire on vodka, but there was a time when vodka wasn’t associated with the region. Ironically, it was before the country adopted Christianity.

Monks distilled the first vodka, or “bread wine,” in the Kremlin in the mid 15th century. Before the monks’ merry-making, vodka was used strictly as a miracle-working medicine, taken in half-teaspoon doses combined with herbs, or consumed only to mark the birth of a child, a military victory or a funeral.

In the 15th century, vodka production and consumption increased or decreased, depending on the rulers’ temperament. In 1533, Czar Ivan IV built the first tavern, but restricted its use to Holy Week, Christmas and Dmitry’s Saturday. (He might have earned his nickname of Ivan “the Terrible” by building taverns, then not allowing people to drink in them.)

The building and banning of taverns alternated throughout the centuries, but one thing was fairly consistent: The state had a monopoly on vodka production, which financed the country’s growth and national defense.

The Russian Empire really learned about the power of vodka during Peter the Great’s rule in 1721. He had a reputation of being able to drink 36 large mugs of wine in a day, and under his rule, people learned to drink with reckless abandon. Every nobleman had his own brand of vodka, and it was considered prestigious to house an assortment of infused vodkas, from apple to zest.

The drunkenness came to a halt during World War I, when a “dry law” attempted to keep army recruits sober enough to fight. When the Bolsheviks stole power in 1917, they extended the prohibition on ideological grounds, arguing the czarist state had kept subjects docile by liberally distributing vodka. Vladimir Lenin, a teetotaler himself, saw alcoholism as a disease that would keep the Russian people from moving “forward” to communism.

By the 1920s, about a third of all households illegally distilled alcohol, and the average urban family spent 14 percent of its income on alcohol, according to Stephen White, who wrote “Russia Goes Dry.”

In the 1930s, the strength of vodka spiked from 20 percent to its natural level of 40 percent. Within a decade, more shops sold alcohol than meat, fruit and vegetables combined, and by World War II, soldiers received two cups of vodka daily to keep their spirits high – so to speak.

The Pravda Vodka Bar salutes those soldiers with a huge landscape poster, mounted on one of its red walls.


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