Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Functionally Immortal

Tartu residents, rejoice: Zavood is not going anywhere.

Tartu is a campus town, so for a community of a hundred thousand it has a massive amount of pubs, most of them congregating within a reasonable stumbling radius of the University main building and the central dorms. A lot of these pubs come and go, but some are permanent fixtures - and the most legendary of Tartu booze houses is Zavood.

Its main virtue is opening hours: Zavood stays open until four AM, long after most of the rest, and even after the clubs have shut for the night. Once the main entertainment is concluded, those with a high alcohol blood content drift towards Zavood, a few rooms in a semi-basement down an alley just outside the Old Town. There are other late-night haunts in the city, but Krooks is a metal pub with its own specific audience, and Half Six is not bohemian enough. Zavood has no pretensions, not even a theme as such: it is the quintessential student pub. Loud, relatively cheap, and very seedy. Also very full. Tartu is not that small, but if you've lived here for a few years, you know that on any given night you can show up at Zavood around 1 am and see someone you know - probably on their fourth pint of cheap lager.

Zavood seems functionally immortal. All Tartu pubs suffered a great blow when the EU smoking ban came into force, but Zavood somehow just made it work: on a really good night the inside is likely to be reduced to a steady stream of customers picking up their glasses, while most of the socializing happens in the alley outside, conveniently equipped with concrete bannisters on which you can leave your drink.

It is this aspect of Zavood that irritates the owners of the building, a student fraternity. The Zavood mob, while mostly friendly, can get unruly; some of the other tennants complained, and the fraternity tried to pull the lease. It looked like the legendary pub would have to close up after August - or at least move.

Now, it seems that Zavood's Italian owner has made his arguments stick in court; the fraternity's decision to kick them out came after the new lease had been sent off for signing, so according to Zavood, the extension till 2011 is binding. There's some legal hustle related to whose signature was on which paper when, but the preliminary ruling seems to have been favourable towards the pub, so it looks like the Tartu fixture will stay.

See you there.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to be nit-picky about your otherwise excellent writing, but just wanted to correct one error: it is not an "EU" smoking ban but a national one, the decision taken by the Estonian government. There are still countries in the EU where you can smoke in bars, Austria, Germany and Belgium being some examples.

antyx said...

Huh, that's odd - because my friends from other EU countries complained about the smoking ban at the same time... maybe some countries got an extension?

Alan Mendelevich said...

As far as I remember it's EU initiative and it should be implemented in all the countries but not necessarily at the same time.

You can't smoke in any public place in Lithuania for 2 years now (I think) and even though many bar owners complained in the beginning there were no decline in their business whatsoever and being in a bar/restaurant for non-smokers and families became much more acceptable.

Plus it's easy to identify a bar from the distance nowadays by a group of smokers in front of it :)

Doris said...

Holland is going smoke-free this summer. Not sure when exactly though. But what with the profusion of street cafe's, I really wonder about the result. And it will also impact the coffeeshops, people won't be allowed to smoke their... purchases right then and there anymore. So a sneaky way to make drugs less convenient to use.

antyx said...

*shrug* I imagine coffeeshops will re-qualify themselves as smoking clubs or something. Like that one place in Amsterdam that managed to get a license to sell both weed AND beer.

Doris said...

ah but it's TECHNICALLY two separate places, even though they have the same name and the entrances are next to each other and the clientele is the same etc. The Dutch are completely anal (forgive the pun - holland, gays, ha-ha) about their laws, in some cases even more than Estonians can be. It's the extreme-protestant background, I think.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit old (year and a half), but from what I gather, while the EU "encourages" member states to enact smoking bans, there is no EU legislation requiring member states to impose a smoking ban:

From the link above: "There are other countries, however, such as Germany, which have no plans for a smoking ban."

Kristopher said...

Mario, who owned Zavood at one point, was from Uruguay, I remember. Is he still in the picture?

Is that drink and smoke shop Rookies on that street off Leidseplein? You're kidding about the ban. Will vaporizers be allowed? (I haven't touched the stuff in at least seven years (insonmia) so I don't care all that much, but I hate sneakiness.)

antyx said...

It seems he very much is, I just presumed he was Italian because his name is Mario Pizzolanti. ;)

Kristopher said...

Ah, I'm have no doubt you were right as well; many South American coutries are melting pots, if it isn't a case of him merely having an Italian father or something.

drEsolve said...

Thanks Antyx for the update on a local issue with international appeal. When I was a visiting student in '96, Zavood was the quintessential student pub even back then. Your comments bring to mind some fond memories; I'm sure that other former students outside of Tartu will also enjoy reading of Zavood's reprieve.

Ironically, the one complaint I remember about Zavood, was that it was too smoky, some women wouldn't go just for that reason. So I think the smoking ban could have only helped business.

drEsolve said...

I just presumed he was Italian because his name is Mario Pizzolanti. ;)

By that logic, the author of my other favorite English language Estonian blog Itching for Eestima must also be Italian, not Estonian, as some have suggested

Anonymous said...

I heard of that guy. He's Eston' alright. I vouch from him.

That other guy Publius curse good, but he ain't paisan' -- I can tell right off, forget about it. You know?

So what's the women situation -- is there or ain't there.

OK, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Mario is from Uruguay but he was somehow able to get Italian citizenship a few years ago.


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