Kristaps Krēsliņš used to live in Washington, D.C, where he ran a popular little place called the Pharmacy Bar and played rock music. Now he lives in Latvia and runs the Aptieka Bar in Rīga.
Having traveled intermittently to his ancestral homeland with his band—Mācītājs on Acid—since 1989, Krēsliņš and his wife decided it was time to try living the Latvian lifestyle on a more permanent basis and moved to Latvia with their two young daughters. On Nov. 1, 2008, he opened the Aptieka (Pharmacy) Bar in Mazā Miesnieka iela, a small cobblestone street in the Rīga’s Old Town district.
The little bar, a continent away from its namesake, attracts a similar crowd to that in Washington: young musicians, artists, students and design people. The bar also gets its regular expatriate crowd, mainly from the U.S. and Canada.
Though it wasn’t planned that way, in Washington his bar is staffed by men, whereas in Rīga the staff is all female and he generally only employs friends. He has had the same staff for more than four years in America and there hasn’t been any staff turnover in the Rīga bar. He lets his staff organize their shifts amongst themselves, as he himself is a fairly laid-back individual.
The bar on the ground floor of a historic old building has a modern design but the old stone walls give it the feeling that it’s always been there. In keeping with the pharmacy theme, old bottles used by pharmacists line the shelves. The tables have an interesting touch, with pills and capsules encased under the glass surface. There is a free jukebox with classic and independent rock.
Krēsliņš and his wife say they love the beautiful countryside and the sea, both of which are so accessible from Rīga. The only anxiety Krēsliņš said he has is about the economy, which obviously affects people’s disposable income. However, the bar is breaking even and in these times that’s a measure of success.
Local friends were a great help with information regarding the opening of a business. Although the number of licenses required are numerous, even including official approval and a license for the bar’s drinks measure, it has never been suggested to him that he should pay a bribe to move things along, Krēsliņš said. In this latter respect he said he believes that Latvia often gets an undeserved bad rap about its business environment, but he does believe that the taxes are too high. Before setting off for Latvia, he remembers his friends in America warning him to be careful because of stories they’d heard about Latvia and questioning whether it was such a good idea, but he has no regrets about having made the move.
Krēsliņš, who plays rhythm guitar, has good contacts in the Latvian music industry and organizes free shows with high quality musicians for patrons in the basement of his bar twice a month on Sunday nights.
The pharmacy link comes from Krēsliņš’ grandfather, who was a Rīga pharmacist. An interesting painting overlooking the bar was inspired by a photograph taken of him working in the pharmacy of a refugee camp in Germany.
Further information about the bar is available on its website, www.krogsaptieka.lv.
The Aptieka Bar in Rīga’s Old Town is situated in a historic building and is decorated with elements of a pharmacy. (Photo courtesy of Aptieka Bar)
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