A few months of teasing on social media plus a location on a freshly renovated square with Soboras, one of Kaunas’s main tourist attractions, in the middle, guaranteed a busy opening night of “Nuogas” [“Naked”], a new gastropub slash art deco cocktail bar.
The bar’s closest neighbours are “Lizdas”, a tiny contemporary electronic music bar under the M. Žilinskas gallery of art, and “Anna Mesha”, the more upscale neighbour of the latter. In fact, the opening night of “Anna Mesha” (relocated from a busy corner house in Laisvės alėja) coincided with the birth of “Nuogas”. The new company kind of reinvented the previously quiet Nepriklausomybės [Independence] square and is turning it into a nightlife hotspot.
Both “Nuogas” and “Anna Mesha” are located in a historic building designed by Nikolajus Andrejevas back in 1896 when Kaunas was still part of the Russian Empire. The landlady Ona Presienė (or Ann Press, if you like – this kind of suits the “Anna Mesha” name) opened a very modern (baths and water closets available!) first-class hotel “Central” in 1897. Bureaucrats and soldiers favoured the centrally located hotel. The police later used the building; most recently it just stood empty and soulless. A Lithuanian cuisine restaurant was operating on the corner of Laisvės alėja until very recently; rumours are it’ll be converted into a pub.
Let’s go back to “Nuogas”. Stylishly decorated in black with gold details, the bar – and its name – certainly draws inspiration from a statue nearby. “Žmogus” [“Man”] by Petras Mazūras (1986), standing less than a hundred meters from the bar’s entrance, is one of the best-known sculptures in Kaunas and is probably better known than the art gallery itself.
The upper part of the man’s body is visible in the logo of “Nuogas”, while the lower part, covered in gold and wearing Dr Marten’s shoes, is standing inside. Sculptor Kęstutis Keparutis made the new interpretation of the cult classic. The general aesthetics of the interior kind of gives a hint about the golden era of Kaunas, full of restaurants, bars, dance halls, cinemas and jazz music, during the interwar period.
The food part of “Nuogas” is another topic worth covering. Interestingly enough, the concept and the menu have been franchised from “Briusly” [a reference to Bruce Lee], a popular Asian fusion bar in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The laksas, donburis and spring rolls certainly have nothing to do with art deco and modernism, but they have gained notorious popularity in Vilnius, so why not try that in Kaunas..?