Blind Eye

Although popular with Americans, Noah Lucas's Žižkov watering hole is more than an expat oasis

This article first appeared in The Prague Wanderer, a web magazine produced by students at New York University in Prague.

Noah Lucas is full of advice.

He knows how to cure a mean case of the hiccups, how to DJ a packed bar on a Friday night, and how, as an American expatriate, to successfully relocate to Prague.

He also happens to be the owner of Blind Eye -- where, in Prague's Žižkov neighborhood, you are probably more likely to hear a "what's up" than a "dobrý den."

Lucas, in his mid-thirties, looks at home here with his piercings, tattoos, and black cap. It’s "indie night" and many of the clientele sport the same attire. He also fits in for another reason: he is from Indiana.

"We have a fine little establishment here," he says, sitting on a bar stool on a particularly jumping Thursday night.

The dance floor is overflowing with American students, and some 20-somethings linger on the couches lining the turquoise walls.

In the middle of the Czech Republic, he remains surrounded by his native tongue.

However, Lucas does not want Blind Eye to be seen exclusively as a watering hole for American expatriates. "I've heard up to 14 languages spoken here in one night," he says.

There is a sizable number of Czechs here and some Italians occupy one booth.

With the disco ball shedding small squares of light across the orange ceiling, the surprisingly friendly bartenders -- in a city not celebrated for its customer service -- and the trendy music scene, it is not surprising that Blind Eye has gained acclaim among an international crowd.

Still, the stereotype remains.

"It's known as an expat joint," says Dan, a 30-something from Belmont, Massachusetts. It's his first time at the bar and he sits slowly sampling his beer. "I thought I'd check it out. It's laidback, I like it."

He lounges next to a bearded, inked character who is a familiar face around these parts. Go to Blind Eye enough and you are sure to see many of the same people again and again -- there is a sense of community.

"The first time I walked in I felt like everybody knew each other, and usually that would make me uncomfortable," says Juli Morrall, a 21-year-old student from Boston studying at New York University in Prague.

"But for whatever reason, maybe the type of people who were there -- I'm not sure -- I did not feel uncomfortable at all. It's like a private hangout for a group of friends but they don't turn and give you a nasty look when a stranger walks in."

There's Noah, the owner; his partner from Colorado; Adam, the Czech man at the bar who introduced them to me; and the small circuit of revolving bartenders.

Then there are people like Kim, an American with cropped brown hair who has been in Prague since last July.

"I come every Monday, for karaoke; it's a fun place," she says.

She doesn't leave until 5am. At that point, the crowd has turned over -- there is a whole different set of night-owl revelers to replace the ones who filed out in the early morning, around two or three.

Noah stays until long after I head out at 5am as well.

He has spent the past three hours talking politics, marriage, and everything in between with Juli and I.

Noah is not quick to smile and can have an intimidating air.

Somewhere along the line, after a decent sampling of Czech beer and a tequila shot, I wonder if he doesn't care to be talking to two American students from Boston, despite the colorful stories he has shared.

"Thanks for humoring us," Juli says as she grabs her coat when we leave.

"If I were just humoring you, I wouldn't have stuck around so long," he replies.

I get the feeling that Noah has seen a lot of people like me in his place of business.

Looking around as I saunter out, at the packed booths and bodies lining the bar, I see a great deal of people enjoying the wee hours of what's now a Friday morning.

It makes me wonder: do they work? Do they have to get up in the morning? Why, exactly, did they come to Prague?

Julie O'Shea, an editor at the Prague Post from California, came up with this response in an article about American expatriates in the Boston Globe in January:

"They come with their oversized backpacks to teach English, drink cheap beer, and escape the responsibilities waiting for them on the other side of the world. They party till dawn and sleep until noon," she writes.

Prague has attracted the English-teaching-on-a-budget set since the fall of Communism, and despite rising prices, the trend shows no sign of abating.

Tania Barnes, a 27-year-old New Yorker who has lived in Prague for the past year and a half, recalls the reasons why she decided to relocate to Central Europe.

"I had a bit of a travel bug," she said. "I felt antsy, I wanted to do something totally different."

She had originally planned to relocate to Russia but made a stop in Prague to teach English to foreigners. She never left and now works as a student advisor at New York University in Prague.

For some, it is that easy: buy a plane ticket and come teach English classes.

According to Barnes, expats can largely fit into two groups: the "middle-aged losers" looking for Czech women, and "college people looking for a good time."

Of course there are the slew of professionals and entrepreneurs from across Europe and the US who come to Prague as well.

Noah stands outside this box.

"You can do anything here," he says, referring to the extremely low crime rate, the relaxed enforcement of marijuana laws, and even the tolerance of public urination.

But Noah also sought to escape the bitter partisan American politics he could no longer understand.

He feels free of these pressures in Prague, where he has now lived for seven years.

Even though he is surrounded by Americans, they are a different kind of Americans.

To consider leaving the United States for an extended period and come to Prague, a place many Americans would not be able to place on a map, these people are certainly not average.

Perhaps Blind Eye is a place for young Americans to escape responsibility and get hammered on a Saturday night.

But one thing is for sure: it's not Indiana.

Blind Eye's Prague Directory Listing

Eva Medoff is in her third year at Boston University, studying journalism. She is from Boston, Massachusetts.

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