Time Machine: Come With Me to The Old CCCP

At the Old CCCP, there is a window in the corner of the bar. It is behind the DJ booth, and somehow it is the only window where heavy drapery doesn’t fully collect itself. Through that window, I’ve seen the light of 5:30 AM grow into 6:30 grow into 7:30 in an unchanging hue. Truthfully unplanned, since it’s easy to lose track of time when the people there tend to come more easily than they go.

The crowd at the Old CCCP defines its closing time, and it tends to draw in young, local bartenders around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. They’re not weary people looking for a drink after a hard day’s night, but rather jovial with the glow of post-shift freedom. They mix in with the patrons that came before them, typically older gentleman and ladies smoking cigarettes in the brothel-esque red ambiance. It creates an interesting balance of how one may define age in a bar that feels like a piece of the Soviet underbelly cut out of somewhere in 1985; a seedy place for mobsters meet for liquor, straight and on the rocks, after dinner and before the trouble.

The only word that comes to mind is “thick”. The barstools are thick and sturdy. The sitting area has thick and plushy chairs circled around thick, wooden couch tables. The random table lamps scattered about the bar have thick shades, all glowing with a dim and dirty thick yellow light. All but two walls are painted a thicker black than swamp water. The other two walls look to be thickly stained sepia, as if by too much cigarette smoke. Four thick and chunky mirrors are main wall decorations as well as the thick and splintered bear rug made from wooden shards. The bartender is generally a thick-faced Russian, pouring drinks with a liquor shelf rising behind him that’s illuminated by thick, neon lining.

Looking upwards, two disco balls and a tommy gun hang from the ceiling like an afterthought. A somewhat clear area meant for foot traffic between the DJ booth and the bar becomes a dance floor at any given moment. I’ve heard the music go from Dixieland, to funk, to a techno or hip hop classic, then U-turn back to funk before a voyage through 80’s favorites.

Perhaps it’s the constant recognition of these tracks that makes time flow at the Old CCCP. Another jam to sing to, one from long ago that the elders in company may remember dancing to when they were my age. It only feels like 2:00 AM and one more glass of gin and tonic is ordered because of nostalgia.

Another song starts. Another person begins to dance. A thick-faced Russian pours another drink. More seats are taken. More cigarettes are smoked in the middle of conversations. More candlewicks dwindle down. I don’t check my watch, but rather peer at the corner window again. Building facades are taking shape out of the dawn. My eyes come back inside and the room is still red. The old and the young are still centrifuged together, but it’s hard to tell who exactly has been there the longest when the Old CCCP is still breathing.

Old CCCP, Torstrasse 58, U2 Rosa-Luxemburg Platz 
Open Monday – Sunday: 9:00PM

By Lindsay McKean

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