Lil Spill

November 18, 2011

This was in the Kazan Herald
Coyote Ugly Founder Liliana Lovell traveled from the United States to Russia this past weekend to celebrate the two year anniversary of her saloon’s expansion into the Russian market and to assess the brand’s progress in the region.

After visiting her Moscow saloon’s birthday party on Friday, 11 November, Lovell came to Kazan, the third Coyote Ugly location in Russia. She hosted a party in the Kazan bar on Saturday night which had an excellent turnout (she joked that there were so many people trying to enter the bar that she herself had to queue up to get in). Then, on Sunday, she appeared in a press conference hosted by Komsomolskaya Pravda entitled “The American Approach to Developing the Russian Entertainment Industry.”

During the conference, Lovell fielded a range of questions, from the difference between American and Russian ‘coyotes’ (as the female bartenders are called) to the profitability of Coyote Ugly in Russia. “I don’t feel like there’s a competitor that is even close to where Coyote Ugly is,” she declared. “I can honestly say—and I’m very proud of this—Coyote Ugly is the most famous bar in the world.”

Kazan is the latest stop in the expansion of Coyote Ugly from a single dive bar on the Lower East Side of New York City to an international brand with saloons in 17 cities in the USA, Germany, and Russia. The company is opening a new bar in Minneapolis soon, but its vision has been global ever since its first licensed bars opened in Germany and Russia in 2009. In May 2011, just a month before the opening of the Kazan bar, Coyote Ugly Saloon signed an exclusive area development agreement with its Russian partners covering all of Russia and Ukraine. Under the terms of this agreement, the Russian partners have reportedly committed to opening six more saloons, in addition to the existing ones in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kazan. Lovell mentioned Kiev and Yekaterinburg as possible future additions to the network.

The narrative of the Russian Coyote Ugly is almost as remarkable as the story of the original New York bar. “They went drinking in the Coyote Ugly in Las Vegas and called me up because they had so much fun, they knew they had to open one,” explained Lovell about how she met her Russian partners in an interview with The Kazan Herald on Saturday night. Just like its American counterpart, however, this story is the outer layer of a shrewd business approach. The decision to choose Kazan as the third location in Russia was based on a careful analysis of the Russian markets, according to Anna Zakharova, the bar’s Marketing Director in Russia. “It’s a sports capital, it’s a very progressive city, lots of students, lots of young people,” she said of Kazan on Saturday night. “We felt it’s a great spot for Coyote Ugly.”

Lovell echoed this sentiment in the press conference on Sunday. “Kazan is introducing a lot more business, Kazan is also introducing a lot more sporting events, things like that—right now, the bar is doing great,” she said. “In two years, the bar’s going to be doing even better. I was thinking, get in now, before it really breaks.”

Coyote Ugly is the latest in a string of well-known names that have seen similar potential in Tatarstan’s capital. Courtyard Marriott, Ernst & Young, and Rai Revolution have all opened operations in Kazan this year, and Hilton has recently reiterated its intentions to start doing business here as well. And, just like these other companies, Coyote Ugly focuses on maintaining a standard quality of management and training to ensure their success in this regional market. Coyote Ugly managers must go through four weeks of training in America before they begin working, and return for 2-week training courses every year after that, a process that is all paid for by the American company, according to their website. The franchise also sends trainers to help select and train employees before a new location is opened. “Every bar is a little bit different,” added Lovell. “They all get trained the same, but they put their own flavor in.”

Lovell is coy when talking about the profitability of the Russian license—“Let’s say I’m very happy,” she quipped when asked during the press conference—but she should be doing rather handsomely in Russia. According to her website’s “Expansion” page, the U.S. company is typically entitled to either 5 per cent or $100,000 a year of the revenues from licensed bars, plus 25 per cent of logo merchandise sales.

Whilst Lovell’s visit confirms that foreign companies have noted the town’s potential, it also shows that Kazan’s adaptation to an international mindset remains a work in progress. Lovell in particular was quick to note that the coyotes in Kazan had more of a provincial outlook and were less career-orientated than the girls in Moscow and St Petersburg. It was also difficult for her to get her point of view across to the journalists at her press conference, as many of Lovell’s statements were often lost in translation.

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