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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Brewery Has Locals Foaming at the Mouth

Everyone has their own worst nightmare. For the residents of 5 Kutuzovsky Prospekt, it is that the microbrewery crowded into their building's basement will blow up.

The company now building the brewery says it is merely the anchor for a cozy restaurant planned for the first floor of the Stalin-era apartment building, where house beer will flow from shiny copper-plated tanks.

But the unusual installation of twelve 2,000-liter stainless steel fermentation drums in their basement has residents foaming at the mouth.

At best, they say, the restaurant will attract drunks and mafiosi and leak beer fumes into their courtyard; at worst the brewery will explode and the building will collapse in a mire of mud and suds.

"The house is going to fall down," said Arkady Zakharenko, 81, who donned his war medals to show a reporter the hole left by construction work to deepen the basement. He said the work had already caused cracks in the walls of his third-floor apartment and could make the building collapse into the soft sand on which it is constructed.

"Can they really build a beer factory in a residential building?" demanded Natalya Pishkovskaya, 50. "What kind of noise is it going to make?"

"We can live with one," said Helen Kaminsky, a Polish translator who has lived in the building 15 years, referring to the nearby Tryokhgorny beer factory, whose yeasty smells periodically waft over the neighborhood. "But two is too many."

In a letter to city authorities, residents expressed annoyance at late-night construction, fear that the brewery could overburden gas lines and cause an explosion, and outrage at the prospect of sharing their building with a bar.

"It is not impossible that they will build a casino as well," they wrote. Local officials are now investigating whether Siva, the Russian firm building the restaurant and brewery, had proper permission for the project, said Svetlana Morozova, a neighborhood administrator.

Such disputes are typical in Moscow, where many apartment buildings have been privatized while commercial space remains city-controlled, often with no single authority clearly in charge of its use.

Mayoral spokesman Yury Zagrebnoy said residents may "influence the use of commercial space" in their buildings only if 51 percent form a committee and choose a head approved by city officials.

"One hundred residents, one hundred opinions," he said. "Maybe someone is really happy they are building a bar in his building. Why not, if it's affordable, stop in and rest and have a drink, the way it's done all over the world?"

Vadim KIanitsin, a city architect who helped Siva design the project, said 90 percent of renovations in residential buildings run into problems, largely because poorer residents resent rich neighbors who knock down walls or businesses that install luxurious shops and restaurants.

But he said complaints often cease after the debris is cleaned up and residents begin to enjoy the repainted staircases, repaired plumbing and added security that often come with the improvement of a property.

Kaminsky said she could live with "a kind of McDonald's -- a fast-food restaurant that would be for the good of the population.

"This is going to be some kind of elite restaurant -- a different matter altogether," she said.

Sasha Fedoseyev, a representative of Siva at the scene, dismissed their concerns about an explosion, insisting that the brewery's dozen 2000-liter drums were not under pressure and did not endanger gas lines. He said there would be no smell since all fumes would be dissolved in water and expelled through the plumbing system. Siva's vice president, Vyacheslav Simenenko, hung up on a reporter when contacted by telephone. Klanitsin, the city architect, said he had pronounced the project safe, although he was not authorized to give official permission.

Dmitry Yarmolinsky, head engineer at the Moskvoretsky beer factory, said even if the brewery were improperly constructed, there would be no danger of explosion. The worst threat to residents would be unpleasant odors.

Or rather, he said, "it won't smell bad -- it will smell of beer."