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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Down and Dirty at the Hungry Duck

They come to blow off steam and meet after 80 hour work weeks. They leave with tales of vomit, broken eyeglasses and unidentified flying coasters. Moscow's Hungry Duck is the place to watch the strange relaxation rituals and mating tactics of Moscow's younger expatriate crowd.


There is the usual slurred conversation and drinks "accidentally" spilled on particularly dense prey. Some amorous accountants fling coasters at the objects of their affections. And if none of these sly tricks work, they climb atop the huge round bar and take off their pants.


"Back home if we had a place like this, there would be lawyers standing at the door handing out business cards," said Doug Steele, general manager of the bar and second-time Moscow bar success story -- his first effort was the Moosehead Canadian bar. There are no safety rules at the Hungry Duck, no occupancy limits. And there definitely is no dress or behavioral code.


Steele's sidekick Bryan, who declined to give his last name, recalled that when the bar opened in December, it was dead. "So, we just sat here and drank with every customer who came in," he said.


It was Bryan's idea to instigate "expat celebrity bartenders." Between six and nine expatriates, most of whom hold professional jobs with foreign companies by day, volunteer on weekends from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.


"Theft was a huge problem," said Bryan. "You turn over your staff a few times before you realize you just keep bringing in a different bunch of thieves."


The "celebrities" don't steal money. In fact, they donate their tips to the bar's four full-timers. But they have not proven so cost effective either.


"The problem is, you take your best customer and put them behind the bar and what do you have -- still your best customer, but he's behind the bar," said Bryan.


Kathy Mills, a British insurance agent, volunteered at the bar one Friday night and said she saw sights ranging from naked men to serial kissers.


"I've seen similar behavior at university parties in the U.K.," said Mills. "They'll probably go back to suburbia to their families and lead their normal lives. They're a long way from home."


Albin Gielicz, an American who goes to the Hungry Duck every weekend, has bartended there twice. "All the weirdnesses that you see in the expat community are demonstrated and illustrated in that bar," he said.


On a recent Friday night Wayne Deffenbaugh, an American accountant for Deloitte and Touche, who comes here once a week, was drinking beer. He said he planned to go on doing so until around 4 a.m.


"Our hours are crazy," said Deffenbaugh who said he works from 8 a.m. until midnight seven days a week. "I've worked every day since I got here Jan. 7."


The Duck, however, is not to everybody's taste. An American member of Alcoholics Anonymous, who asked not to be identified, said he has been to the Hungry Duck once and will not be back soon.


"Even when I was a raging alcoholic, it wasn't my idea of a good time to stand around in close quarters and throw coasters at people," he said.