Euro place or mine? Shore club caters to foreign concept

Posted: August 05, 2011

SVETLANA SPENDS her summer days in a starched maid's uniform, cleaning up dirty bedsheets in Atlantic City motel rooms, more than 5,000 miles from home.

But there are a few magical hours each week, when the Russian sociology student can wear her smartest dress, hear her favorite homeland music and dance until morning with handsome, Bulgarian men beneath pink neon lights and hovering seagulls.

"I like to go to the beach and boardwalk if I can. I like to meet new people, especially Russians and Bulgarians," the 21-year-old Russian native said excitedly. "Bulgarian boys are the cutest. I like American boys, too."

Svetlana and her friends, also maids, are among the hundreds of current and former J-1 visa students who attend Sunday Euro Nights at the trendy Chelsea Hotel on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Disc jockeys Ahmed Khan and Vitalik Kobys, both area residents, started their parties at other area clubs back in 2000 when the demographics of the J-1 visa students coming to the Jersey shore for work had become predominantly Eastern European.

"The Irish just weren't big dance fans," said Khan, a teacher at Atlantic City High School.

The Eastern Europeans, based on the mass of bodies on the dance floor one recent morning, do like to dance and so did the mix of Mongolian and Turkish students who were also at the club. DJ Vitalik played music native to specific countries, and the crowds sang in unison to the familiar choruses.

The crowds build, Khan says, as students get off work from boardwalk businesses up and down the coast. By 2 a.m., the Chelsea's fifth floor was packed with women in short, tight dresses and men with stubbly beards, deep tans and small shirts. Some lounged in poolside cabanas, laughing and embracing under the glow of a towering casino.

Everyone, it seemed, smoked cigarettes, yet few seemed to be drinking beer. They like vodka and rum and Coke, one man said.

"Beer is kind of considered low-class at home," said Danny Todorov, 21, a Macedonian who works at an Ocean City restaurant.

One lonely guy, Stan Ostrovsky, hovered around the bar all night, chopping at the ice in his drink with a straw while looking for a little eye contact. Even if he didn't "hook up" that night, he's still having the time of his life.

"I work at beach rentals," the 23-year-old electrical-engineering student said. "I sit on a sunny beach in America and see beautiful women here. It's a good life."

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