KRASNOYARSK, Russia (Reuters) - From the outside, President Cafe that opened last month is not that different from other eating places in this working-class residential area of Krasnoyarsk, a city in eastern Siberia.
He might be 4,000 km (2,500 miles) away in Moscow, but just step into this eatery and you find the world of Vladimir Putin, with dozens of pictures of his life from childhood to the Kremlin.
Black-and-white or in color, amateur and professional, his image looks down on you from the walls of the entrance hall and escorts you right to the table.
There’s Putin as a schoolboy, Putin with his wife and holding a newly born daughter, Putin the steely eyed KGB agent, Putin in a judo bout, Putin inspecting a submarine, and more others of Putin.
Want to pose with Russia’s most popular man? No problem - his lifesize standup picture is waiting for your hug or handshake by the bar stand.
Images from the restaurant can be seen at reut.rs/1N63RHx
“When we got together with partners to open a new cafe, we thought of a concept that would attract customers and guarantee its success,” said Dmitry Zhdanov, a 26-year-old entrepreneur and co-owner.
“And it then dawned on us: Russia still had no cafe or restaurant fully dedicated to Putin, Russia’s most popular politician!” he said. “This is how our concept appeared. Then we worked on the design.”
But step away to the restrooms and there’s another designer “surprise” - graffiti-daubed pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama and his German and British allies, complete with Obama’s face on toilet paper. Toilet mats bear the colors of the U.S. flag.
The pictures, which also include one of Ukraine’s pro-Western Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, are covered with hand-written salty Russian curses. Want to add your ‘I-was-here’ autograph? Just use the black marker pen to hand.
“I am neutral towards Western politicians,” says young entrepreneur Zhdanov. “This is just business, nothing personal,” he adds, though he refers to “the aggravating political situation in the world and, notably, around Russia”.
“People react the way they consider appropriate, and we give them this opportunity,” he said. “But, in general, we see this as entertainment.”
Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Richard Balmforth