DATELINE / ST. PETERSBURG : Serving a Pint on Capitalism’s Frontier
What’s an Irishman like you doing in a place like this?
“That’s what I keep asking myself,” Frank Peyton said. “I still haven’t come up with the answer.”
Peyton, 42, sold his bar in County Cork this year, said goodby--temporarily--to his wife and five children and came to St. Petersburg to lose his fortune.
Actually, he doesn’t have a fortune, and what he did have he doesn’t plan to lose. But opening Mollie’s Irish Traditional Bar on Rubensteina Street, just off Nevsky Prospect, was not about money. It was about adventure.
An adventure it has been since opening July 1. With a clientele consisting primarily of English-speaking expatriates and wealthy Russians, he serves authentic Guinness, Kilkenny and Harp on tap and is searching for an authentic-sounding Irish singer to provide entertainment.
Peyton is one of many foreign entrepreneurs who have brought their pounds, marks, francs, yen and dollars to St. Petersburg in exchange for the opportunity to explore capitalism’s new frontier.
When he and other investors from Ireland began looking into the possibilities here, they discovered that St. Petersburg already had an assortment of restaurants (including Tex-Mex) and night clubs, a Baskin-Robbins and even an Irish bookmaker’s shop. What it did not have was an Irish pub. For $300,000, it does now.
Peyton said the most difficult thing he has had to deal with, besides homesickness, is the Russian bureaucracy.
“I’ve got to sign four or five different papers from four or five different people just to buy six bottles of Heineken,” he said.
He also had to buy three filters from Finland to purify the tap water, which is safe to drink for locals who have built up an immunity to the bacteria, but not for visitors. Other parasites, known as members of the Russian Mafia, prey on foreign business, but they have not bothered Peyton. So far.
“If I had known what was ahead of me, I don’t think I would have done it,” Peyton said. “For a younger person, it would be easier to just cut off and go for it. But the bottom line is that I’m just too old for it.”
He plans to give Mollie’s a year, get it up and running at a profit and then turn it over to a manager while he goes home to County Cork.
But there is one more enterprise he wants to start before leaving.
“A Kentucky Fried Chicken (restaurant),” he said. “I love Kentucky Fried Chicken.”