A tiny shop in Uzupis and its contested space

Article published on Jan. 27, 2009
community published
Article published on Jan. 27, 2009
Decision which was taken to blame the director of the shop for safety problems. Not because it's an usual practice, but because she was a labour union activist. Since we had our first photography practice near this little shop in the Uzupis area, I thought that I could tell a few things about this shop for those who are interested. This is the shop at night.

It belongs to a French-owned network "Iki". Along with two others (two and a half, I could say), one of which is Lithuanian-owned (which I boycott) and another Scandinavian-owned, this shopping network participates in an oligopoly market in Lithuania. This particular shop is actually rather organically integrated into the area. It is as small as other shops around, it did not had any new premises built to suit its needs, as usually shopping centres do. For many people in the area this is the place to get some food on the way home.

On the other hand, this is where everyone would go to get drinks. Students and old inhabitants of the area alike, richer and poorer people. There is a little square near the shop, which was very comfortable for those who want to have their drinks right away. It is forbidden in Vilnius to drink alcohol in public spaces, yet the police seldom come here.

In the end some of the local people, who are organised and had established the community of Uzupis (which represents the activists, but not the old inhabitants, many of whom are not Lithuanian-speaking), started to complain. In fact, when I lived near Uzupis, I didn't feel safe passing by this area. However, the decision which was taken to blame the director of the shop for these safety problems. Not because it's an usual practice, but because she was a labour union activist. The story is long, and I don't know the recent developments. What I know is only what I could see during the photography practice, when I went to this place in the evening after not going there for months.

So, after a new law was imposed and shops are not allowed to sell any alcohol after 10 pm, it seemed to me that the place was rather empty. It wasn't 10 pm yet, and there were some young people waiting for their friends or discussing what to buy, and, of course, it was an ordinary weekday, but it felt more empty than it used to be. Maybe the new regulations for selling alcohol have created new habits and a new distribution in space? Maybe new meeting points were discovered and/or created? I don't know that since I don't live near Uzupis anymore.