Many Ukrainians liken nightlife to alcohol, fights and noise. But in the city of Lviv, which is situated in the west of Ukraine, a group of “night ambassadors” are trying to dismantle the stereotype, struggling to turn an ancient city into a day-and-night attraction for residents and tourists. Opinion talked to the leader of the organization Chad Zoratlios who is called a “night mayor of Lviv” and found out whether darkness could be a friend.
Chad Zoratlios came to Lviv from Athens for studying in 2008. Chad is a child psychologist by profession but an event manager by vocation. Unlike his colleagues, he aims at not commercialising his events (and getting profit) but, in the first place, developing his already native city of Lviv. Together with his associates, he works together with “day authorities” and arranges night festivals, shows and concerts.
You are often called a “night mayor of Lviv”. Please tell more about this position.
There is a day mayor who is responsible for the whole city, some serious stuff, roads and city utilities and facilities, and there is a night mayor who guarantees a quality, nice and safe nightlife in Lviv. But calling me a mayor is rather wrong – because it is egoistic. Together with my team Night Ambassadors, we develop a nightlife of Lviv. For example, we take some location: it can be a school, library, old garden or even a church. And we arrange lectures, concerts, festivals and even parties there. We have elaborated the concept that the city could be engaging twenty-four-hour.
I guess like a real “politician” you didn’t enter the office at once?
Yes, everything started 10 years ago when I came to Lviv to finish my internship. I tried to work in a hospital, but I didn’t like it. I was paid 700 hryvnias there and I had to work at night. This money covered only transport expenses. Because of despair, I started to think what I could do. And I started to arrange different events. At first, I joined Wiz-Art company, then I happened to work with The Room Wine Bar, later, I was arranging Ganok parties. At that time, I started to make many friends, learn Ukrainian and look for like-minded people. You can’t work alone in a business, especially in a creative one. I often see that the Ukrainian business isn’t used to synergy, but there are positive tendencies.
You have gained a huge progress for the last 9 years. Now you arrange night events across Ukraine and, what is most important, you connect different worlds: officials, “day” residents who can’t stand night noise and party goers.
At first, it is necessary to understand that nightlife is not alcotrash, noise and fights. It is about people who want to relax after a workday. They want to communicate, be in their community. And of course, a good music has to play at such events. In this regard, we cooperate well with the “day” mayor as we introduce a quality product. But as for pensioners who live in the downtown, it is more difficult to explain to them that a city doesn’t have to stop at 10 p.m. We also have face-control at our events so not to let drunk or aggressive people enter. We communicate with people who live in the neighbourhood and explain why it is important.
If you can explain it to ordinary people, you can’t explain it to the police. Some years ago, a wave of searches in nightclubs took place in Ukraine. Except for the police, sometimes even militaries came to find young men who were avoiding military service.
It is not OK when people even in a uniform seize you and lead somewhere. Later, they had to even apologize for that. It was quite a nervous time for our events as well. One woman even tried to crash our party because her son was a soldier in Donbas. And we had 700 people on the location, and we were just unable to show them out. We turned the music down and didn’t know what to do…
But then we realised that people had their right to have a rest. Former soldiers, police officers, Prosecution officials come to us. I used to want to make parties for soldiers just at the front but we hadn’t an access there so I had to give it up.
Why is it important?
There is a big problem in Lviv, Kyiv, Odesa and other big urban cities. A city just falls asleep after 10 p.m. People have nowhere to go – it influences tourism badly. The police don’t also deal with tourists, they more focus on car accidents or robberies. But an overseas tourist can lose his or her passport, and nobody can understand him or her at the police office. And a person can just be deported.
I reckon that every big city needs a night route: across monuments, architecture heritage, clubs, bars, restaurants. There should be such conditions so people would be entertained twenty-four-hour. The police have to create special units which will care that a tourist won’t be hurt and cheated, authorities should just not interfere.
Do they interfere?
Our mayor is also a young person so he understands everything well. We explained that a person shouldn’t go home and to bed just after work. A person can have some meetings, walks, rest. We also care about tourists. We try to make a person stay more in the city – at festivals, parties, than at a hotel.
About parties locations: the Franko Botanical Garden, the five-star “Bank Hotel” in the Lviv downtown, The House of Scientists – these are not nightclubs.
It is very important for me to choose a great location. Sometimes it takes several weeks to find a place, agree with owners, the City Council. Sometimes directors of houses or places which we need to think that they are kings and don’t want to meet advances and give their location for one night. Even after long explanations that it is for the sake of tourism, the city. We wanted to make a party in the Lviv Airport to commemorate the Aviation Day, and it was extremely hard because it was about 300-400 people of guards, customs and security service officers. That’s why such questions have to be discussed with the City Council to get a signed document.
What real benefit can a party in a residential area bring?
Our audience is 90% young people but we work for all Lviv residents. Once on Lesi Ukraiinky Street, at the end of it, where there are no cafes, we decorated buildings for our events. Locals liked it so much that they asked not to take them away. Now we want to fundraise and create there an art-space – just in the centre of Lviv.
OK, and how does an unusual location influence a number of people who come?
Give me a great location, and I will lead there two buses of people. We also will promote it in social networks. We made a party in Odesa, and it wasn’t a problem to bring there two carriages of people from Lviv. Due to social media, nightlife boosted. Earlier, it was impossible to find any information about concerts, places, and now you can watch online what is happening at some concert in Kyiv. That’s why you can’t interest anyone with a usual location. We have to impress.
People seem to want to get impressed, don’t they?
This is why I created the Table project. It is a dinner, but people don’t know where they go and don’t know other participants. We create an event, the registration lasts for 15 minutes. In some hours, we send them a location with a message, everybody has to come on time. We take people’s phones away and give them glasses of wine. They introduce themselves and begin communicating. So they get three hours of networking with creative and interesting people. Guests often forget to take their phones back (laughs).
Do you have enough time for your “day life”?
I do. This responsibility for the youth, for nightlife, for the city inspires me. Don’t forget that my profession is therapy and psychology, it is important for me to entertain people. Their feedback gives me a huge pleasure. Of course, it isn’t easy to live in such rhythm but I just say “take it easy” and go on.
Interview by Kostiantyn Rul
Photo by Evhenia Lvova