To elaborate on the previous tweet regarding the Royal Betting Sports Bar (part of the Kings Hotel complex) in Astana, we were originally heading there to take our place at a reserved table, to watch the England versus Germany World Cup match. A friend of Dan’s had kindly contacted Royal Betting the day before, to check if we could make sure we would have seats to watch the match, and get a feel for the place. He was told on the phone that a table of around 20-40 people would need to spend at least 15,000 Tenge. This equates to around $90, which even allowing for the designated drivers in our group just drinking coke or juice was absolutely fine.
However, upon our arrival, we discovered just why Royal Betting was a bar to avoid in Astana (see half way down the page for some info in Russian and pictures). The manager met us at the door, and told us there was a non-refundable deposit of $35 per person! If each person did not spend that much by the time they left, the bar kept the difference! Although my friends and I have come across other examples of rip off joints in Astana before, this tended to be in night clubs that were desperate to exude an exclusive rich night clubber clientele image. Certainly not in bars that were absolutely empty, and were aware that a few dozen ex-pats were about to watch a football match, spend a fair amount (when this was a voluntary option!) and most likely praise/condemn the venue to friends!
Anyway, the bar itself looked nice enough (the lobsters in the fish tank seemed to be mouldy/furry though!), and whilst the uncompromising/care free attitude of the manager was nothing unusual for customer service levels in Kazakhstan, the fact that when the original reservations were made, a completely different figure and set up was explained (by senior staff/the manager) compared to what we were confronted with on the day, meant I can’t recommend this place unless your company is footing the bill. Check the second link for some more shots from flickr of the venue to avoid in Astana, Kazakhstan.
We eventually went on to a German style pub/bar about a kilometre or two away, where the service was slow but friendly, there was no minimum spend, and the beers were cheaper. Obviously England lost (we were robbed of a goal, but not the match to be fair), and our German friends seemed more than happy with the result (“Justice – 44 years late” referring to yesterday’s vs. 1966’s infamous ball crossing/not crossing the goal line)!
I just wanted to clarify one point – having to pay some sort of deposit for sitting at a table isn’t that uncommon over here. Being told one (reasonable) price only to find a more expensive charge being attempted at the very last minute (bait & switch) hasn’t happened to me before. Perhaps I’m just being naïve, or don’t sit down that often when drinking, but it just seemed like a con, or at the very least really short sighted business sense. The place was dead, a mere 30 minutes before kick off, and losing the good will of so many potential customers & positive word of mouth advertisers seemed ridiculous.