The price of a pint is not as cheap as it used to be in this part of the world. The draughty cafe across the road from work, where beer comes out of the tap like frozen milkshake from a half-crushed straw, has recently upped its prices to a lat, around half of what you'd pay in the Old Town. The Hotel Latvija's Sky Bar now charges two eighty (but does throw in a view of the city for free), while the posers' cafe bar of choice Cuba tops the lot at three.
On Saturday I started off in Gauja, a cramped sixties-retro place on Terbates iela that attracts a crowd (if a bar that seats fifteen people at a push can realistically be said to hold such a thing) of Latvian-speaking teenagers with expensive digital cameras. Aside from the vodka shelf, the decor could have been lifted wholesale from a granny's sitting room: cheap coffee tables and stretched sofas, a coatrack by the door, framed Latvian farmyard scenes and a garish print of a Soviet teen idol. The single unisex toilet is small, cold and windowless; the bulb had blown, leaving me to piss by the light of a mobile phone.
It's a bit out of the way and closes up at eleven, but the barmaid manages the occasional smile (quite a treat in the Latvian service industry) and the Brenguļu beer's only one lat twenty a half-litre - a rare bargain in a city where costs go up as fast as the economy goes down.