Night Flight’s 25th Anniversary

Late into the night on the 25th of October, at a very well-known part of Tverskaya, a group of expatriates and Russians crowded into a night club that they have taken to be their very own. Here, the guests feel to be at home. Welcome faces, smiles, complimentary drinks, great music, food and of course beautiful women. As the evening progressed, people became more and more relaxed, they danced, and celebrated. It is good to be alive! It was a great night.

25 years ago that night, Night Flight first opened its doors in Moscow. For those of us old enough to remember, Night Flight has been consistent in terms of its concept and level of service. The club was opened by Swedish businessmen Sonny Lundquist and Hakan Polhammar together with their Russian counterpart, businessman Yuri Giverts. On October 25, 1991, the club opened right in the heart of Moscow: 300 metres from Red Square and a stone’s throw away from the Mayor’s office, on the spot of the former ice-cream café ‘The North,’ amidst a few bleak Soviet style eateries.

The birth of the night club coincided with tectonic changes in the country. According to Yuri Giverts, ‘At the time when we wanted to open a night club, in our country, and Moscow specifically, there was literally nothing. We realized that we would have to bring everything from Sweden, and this meant not only furniture but wallpaper, ashtrays, toothpicks, screws, screwdrivers – everything… We prepared exhaustive lists containing thousands of items, and everything was delivered on August 15, 1991, but on August 19, 1991 there were tanks passing by our windows on Tverskaya. The putsch was squashed on August 22, and the club opened its doors on October 25, phenomenally soon, taking into consideration that we had to do a full renovation and train the personnel. This was the first and only place (then) in Moscow where everyone had to speak English.’ On ‘Night Flight’s’ opening night, the line of people who wanted to get in went as far as Yury Dolgoruky’s monument; half way down Tverskaya towards the Kremlin.

This was a period of empty shelves and startling naivety: lemons had to be purchased in ‘Stockmans’ for foreign currency. Back then, the rouble was non-convertible and prices changed every hour: exchange rates of dozens of foreign currencies were placed at the cashier’s office. Customers were allowed to pay in any currency they fancied, and the final morning reports came out with currencies varying dramatically from Swedish krona to Japanese yens.

The restaurant, adjacent to the night club, opened in 1993. Chefs from Sweden rotated once in two years, all produce was transported in to Moscow in a club-owned lorry from Sweden, providing a real guarantee of high quality. The business lunch concept was a revolution: for $10, a customer could order a salad and a main dish which changed every day. Since then, the menu has been constantly changing, maintaining consistency in preserving authentic Scandinavian traditions, in combination with latest trends in modern gastronomy.
The night club was so popular in the 1990’s that Sydney Sheldon, who never visited it, had set one of the scenes of his novel ‘The Sky is Falling’ (2001) at Night Flight. According to the Swedish journalist Gunnar Johansson, ‘visiting this night club was a must-do for all big stars visiting Moscow. I’ve met David Copperfield, Robert De Niro, Chuck Norris, Charlie Sheen and Gerard Depardieu there. Donald Trump, Russian hockey team, wrestler Alexander Karelin – everyone was there…’ The club became an icon.

The story of ‘Night Flight’ is truly unique. Hardly anywhere in the world can you find a night club that has a 25-year history: few night clubs last more than five years, particularly in Moscow. As founders and owners of the club confess, ‘There is no secret to the club’s phenomenal longevity – it is just maintaining unfailing premium quality.’