Moscow's first McDonald's reopens after 90-day closure

MOSCOW, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The first McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow reopened on Wednesday after closing for nearly a three months over health and safety violations that came as relations between Russia and the United States fell to post-Soviet lows due to the crisis in Ukraine.

McDonald’s Corp’s restaurant, which opened in 1990, closed in late August in what became a string of closures throughout Russia viewed broadly as a retaliation for Western sanctions on Moscow for its role in Ukraine.

Many have reopened since, but according to the company, there are still 200 inspections ongoing and four restaurants outside Moscow remain closed.

The country’s food safety agency, Rospotrebnadzor, said the closures, which came after unexpected inspections, were not related to the Russia standoff with the West.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s Russian operations, Svetlana Polyakova, said the company has complied with Rospotrebnadzor’s demands.

“McDonald’s continues to work normally,” she said.

The company has 461 restaurants throughout Russia’s vast territory. This year, 45 new restaurants have opened and 25 more are to open by year-end. The growth rate is to remain unchanged next year, Polyakova said.

When the now-reopened McDonald’s restaurant first opened in central Moscow on Pushkin Square, it became an iconic symbol of flourishing American capitalism during the fall of the Soviet Union.

Long queues have since been typical and some people have even had their wedding receptions there.

On Wednesday, the reception was more subdued, but those who came to the reopening, said they had missed the place.

“When it was closed I was a bit upset to be honest,” Sergei, a Moscow resident, said. “I had to go to work with an empty bag as I could not get anything in the morning.”

Another resident, Valentina, said she was there when the restaurant opened 24 years ago and she could not miss its reopening now.

“When I come here I always ask what is the cheapest. They say it’s hamburgers. And I say, ‘yes, that’s what I like’.”

Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Lidia Kelly, editing by David Evans