You're an expatriate. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate. See?
The Sun Also Rises (1926)
Expatriates rarely change; they just shift cities. These days they can be found—still sipping absinthe and shooting the breeze—in Prague, Czech Republic. But in this former Iron Curtain country, sex is easier to get than, say, a Chicago Bull-Orlando Magic game. The city has only four TV stations, all Czech-language. Thus Scott Otto's Sport Bar Praha, one of the few sports bars in Eastern Europe, is as seductive as anything Papa encountered in Paris's red-light district.
Craving an NBA game? Pop into Otto's on Saturday afternoon. Monday Night Football airs on Tuesday evening. NHL highlights are on Friday night, and Seinfeld packs the joint on Thursdays.
"This is my second home," 24-year-old English teacher Andrew Pullen said last February, sipping Czech beer as he watched European soccer highlights on one of Sport Bar Praha's five color TVs, which receive 52 satellite stations. Added 31-year-old computer distributor David Holy, "I'm fluent in Czech, and most of my friends are Czech, but Monday Night Football still makes me very happy."
Football jerseys, baseball caps and pennants adorn the walls behind the 20-foot bar. In the back room fierce games of eight ball are contested—except on hot nights such as the final Friday of the '94 Winter Olympics, when more than 100 Americans jammed into the bar to watch the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan figure skating showdown.
"I just got back from Turkey," one patron said recently. "Someone there told me, 'You have to go to the sports bar in Prague.' "
For Otto, a bespectacled self-described "financial guy," Sport Bar Praha represents an entrepreneurial comeback of sorts. His first venture, when he was a Davidson (Va.) College senior, was the 1984-85 Davidson Gentleman's Calendar, for which athletes and fraternity studs modeled. Only 30 of 1,000 copies sold, most of them to a school librarian, says Otto, who took a $1,000 bath on the project and promptly enrolled in Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
By 1989 Otto was speeding along the fast track as a corporate-finance consultant in New York City. Refueling on weekends at a cavernous sports bar on the Upper West Side, he "realized that watching sports is a way for Americans to escape our work and our lives." Meanwhile, thousands of Americans had discovered Prague, whose burgeoning capitalist economy had earned it the moniker Second Chance City. Otto thought he would give entrepreneurship another go after reading that Prague was home to anywhere from 4,000 to 30,000 U.S. expatriates. "I figured a sports bar would be an immediate attraction to them," Otto says.
Otto hopped a plane for Prague in October 1991. Living in a $70-a-month dorm room at a local university, he slogged through a Czech-language course that, to him, more closely resembled boot camp. "We had class from 8 a.m. to noon every day for four months," he recalls. "I lasted three."
But gaining fluency in Czech proved easier than negotiating Czech red tape. Otto had to search a full nine months for space with sports-bar potential. He found it in an old company cafeteria just 100 yards from historic—and tourist-crowded—Wenceslas Square. But before he could tear up the cafeteria's grimy linoleum floors and repaint its industrial-yellow walls, the law required Otto to secure 24 different permits from "everybody from the water department to two different historical societies," he says. "It took months."