Most Influential Expats: Eric Aigner
#18 Most Influential
Before the East German arrived in the mid-1990s, most mainstream establishments were overpriced and pretentious, with rude and dishonest wait staff as the norm.
Photo by Serhiy Zavalnyuk
Starting out with a simple pizza place, Aigner seized on the idea of affordability and customer service. Soon, he had his own pub, which didn’t need any advertising to fill up.
Rather than intimidating his loyal following of patrons, Aigner and his then-partner and then-wife, Viola Kim, set the house example for approachability.
Aigner was usually dressed in his trademark overalls. Before long, the beefy and bespectacled businessman was running a nightclub, Al Capone, which stole the show from its snootier competition. It had music, atmosphere, scale and, most of all, people – lots of them, foreigner and local, from all walks of life, spending their money and not regretting it afterwards.
Despite open conflicts with his partners, Aigner went on to launch new and more successful venues, reaching his peak in 2001 when the cult-status 111 opened its doors beneath the Lybid Hotel on Victory Square. It was racy rather than glamorous, and drenched with the kind of freedom that the city was learning to enjoy.
When asked once during a Kyiv Post interview what the secret of his success was, Aigner, now divorced, said: “I think that it was a mix that consisted of a lot of work, a certain amount of risk and a love of people.”
Some of Aigner’s creations, which at one time numbered 18 venues under Eric’s Family chain of restaurants and clubs, such as Art Club 44, continue to operate under different management – living testaments to the man who started them and set the standards for the restaurant and disco scene in Kyiv.
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