A Look Inside Risiko, the 1980s Berlin Bar Where Nick Cave and Jim Jarmusch Hung Out

A legendary space for a singular time

Nick Cave, 1989
Nick Cave in 1989.
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Long after they’ve closed, some bars take on legendary status. Histories of New York City in bygone years — whether it’s Low Life or Love Goes to Buildings on Fire — abound with them, for instance. And it’s not hard to see why: the appeal of going to a place where your favorite musician or artist was a regular is self-explanatory. Some of these legendary bars are known for their clientele; others, for the sense of a never-ending party. Some had all of the above.

And then there’s Risiko, located in Berlin. Technically, it was located in West Berlin, because its heyday was before the reunification of Germany. At The Quietus, writer Aug Stone provides a concise history of the space in the 1980s, including the ways that, by word of mouth, it became known as “Nick Cave’s bar.” That phrase is also the title of Stone’s book about his own search for the bar years later and the misadventures that ensued.

From Stone’s telling at The Quietus, Risiko was a spot visited by the likes of Cave, Jim Jarmusch, Alan Vega and Wim Wenders. Oh — and Blixa Bargeld, of Einstürzende Neubauten and the Bad Seeds, tended bar there for a while. This was in the early and mid-1980s, during an evolving moment in Berlin’s history.

The bar was popular for its propensity to give out free drinks, though this also led to some financial instability. That one of its owners also had a sizable cocaine habit (and a fixation on the songs of Roxy Music) didn’t help the bar’s finances much. It changed hands once more before closing for good in 1986 — but it left behind a legend that continues to grow.

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