There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that things aren’t what they used to be when it comes to nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights of vomit, carnage and debauchery - delights that contemporary Bishkek struggles to offer. Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below and we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit and debauchery in town to keep everyone happy.
Gvozd (Western side of the Philharmonia at Prospekt Chui 253) Possibly not quite as far out of the closet as Mayak, but still apparenty universally aknowledged as a gay bar. Urban grooves and acceptable prices at the bar.
Platinum (Behind Dvorets Sporta near Chui/Togolok Moldo) Upmarket club with two rooms, one with the dance floor, one with a large bar. The crowd tends to be more Kyrgyz with far fewer foreigners than clubs such as the Golden Bull. Definitely a place for dressing your best, be careful not to tread on anyone's ego.
Retro Metro (Gorkovo/Mira) Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his records from inside the front of a VW camper van. One of the most popular places for post-2am partying.
Arbat (9, Karl Marks) Tel. 512094; 512087 Smart ‘elite’ club popular with a slightly older crowd. Strip bar and restaurant in same building - see below.
Alatoo (Yuzhnaya Magistral (Baitik Baatyr st.)) $$ Free entry Aside from a large swimming pool and water-slide fun park operating into the early hours, the Alatoo complex also offers a nightclub. With the atmosphere of a wedding reception, Alatoo is a smart venue for a tame crowd. Plenty of seating and a well priced food menu.
Bar 12 (32 Razzakov St) $$$ Free entry A rooftop bar/club with 2 floors, Bar 12 is modelled on a glitzy western club (right down to the drink prices). Expect a young glitzy crowd with fake English accents and a lot of champagne. With some of the best DJs in Bishkek playing at Bar 12, the usual clientele are socially-relaxed and keen to engage with foreigners. Strict dress code. We are reliably informed by those in the know that it's one of the best places to go if you’re on the pull...
Black Rabbit I & II (3rd floor of Kosmopark in Microraion 7 or 107 Kievskaya St), $$ Free entry With two synonymous albeit separate venues, be sure to ask for Black Rabbit in Kosmopark if you’re hoping to dance and Black Rabbit on Kievskaya if you’re more interested in eating. What primarily differentiates them is the size of the dance floor, one being of club proportions while the other more of a bar. Both venues are fairly standard upper-middle-class Kyrgyz haunts with DJs playing classic remixes of Western and Russian pop songs. Touting a by-line of ‘discount bar’, it’s definitely the place to go if you’re interested in throwing back a few cheap promotional drinks in a clean venue.
Mayak (55 Razzakova St) $$ Free entry As Bishkek’s oldest gay club, Mayak is a local underground institution. Given traditional Kyrgyz society’s approach to homosexuality it comes as little surprise that Mayak, as Bishek’s primary out and proud venue, rarely gets crowded. That being said, it serves as a great location to meet locals if you’re new in town.
Brooklyn Dance Bar & Karaoke (East side of the Philharmonic Hall) $$ Free entry The Brooklyn basement is split between a cosy karaoke bar and an equally small bar. Fantastic if you’re looking for that underground packed-club scene, definitely not advisable for the claustrophobic. Playing hip-hop and pop, the self-styled ‘Old School RnB’ club is a welcomed change to the usual Bishkek techno clubs. With stripper poles lining the bar and a young team of staff, Brooklyn has an incredible vibe. Happy Hour Mon-Wed, 8-11pm.
Live Music (carnage)
Promzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya) Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi ride or a long walk home are in order at the end of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an extensive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring, strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night. Rock or blues bands normally play at the weekends. (Entrace between 300-500)
Sweet 60s (Kievskaya/Molodaya Gvardia) Live cover bands play most nights. Full menu, popular with a younger crowd.
Zeppelin (43, Chui) Zeppelin is in the same vein as the old Tequila Blues but not quite so spit and sawdust. On the nights we’ve visited, there’s been a line up of young rock or punk bands strutting their stuff, heavier beats seem to go down best with the young Russian crowd. Full restaurant menu.
Strip Clubs (debauchery)
Arbat (Karl Marx/Zhugulovskaya) Arbat is a Bishkek institution. The strip club is in a specialist backroom of the nightclub of the same name, and has a lofty cover charge that keeps it sparsely populated, so you won’t have to worry about competing for a girl’s attention with too many other jackasses. (Entrance 900 som)
Shpilka (Vostok 5 district, on Chuy before Club Zeppelin) Shpilka, or "high heels" is located in the east of Bishkek near the ‘Industrial Zone’, and is rather ironically filled with girls from the countryside. Hospitable, if somewhat coarse, this establishment is not for first timers looking to bed themselves into Bishkek’s ooch-ie-walla-walla scene.
Dolls (Gorky/Sovietskaya) One of the best strip clubs in Bishkek, with a good rotation of girls, mostly foreign clientele and a 500 com entrance fee. In an industry of hit-and-miss, the crème de la crème of Bishkek’s strip club connoisseurs choose this place for their slide and grind. Almost any night of the week you can count on at least five girls to be working the pole. Keep track of your drinks, however, since the dancers like to hit you up for expensive cocktails. Despite the cost of the drinking and the dancing, you do get what you pay for – poetry-in-motion pole work and lots of interaction. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and all. (Entrance 500 som)
XXX (Manas/Kievskaya - next to the Domino Club) Strategically placed within stumbling distance of the Metro Pub, XXX could well have the potential to give the dolls from Dolls a run for their money. Its prices are near identical to the Gorkova girl-stop, but a luxurious VIP/Lap dance room gives it some extra whammy. More of a looking place than a touching place, however, and unless you have an extra $50 spare, or feel brave in front of bouncers who are quick with their hands if you are careless with yours, stick to oggling. (Entrance 500 som)
Unknown Mystery Stripclub (Located under a furniture shop near Gorky/Sovietskaya) This unnamed institution found under a furniture store features four stages, a full bar, comfortable leather couches and a decent line up of girls. Our seedy underworld correspondent called it "A real blast and one of the only true all night party spots in town". For more info, see the write up in issue 21.