Kathy Kriger

Friday, April 02 2004, 00:00:00

I have lived in Morocco since 1998, serving as the commercial counselor for the U.S. Embassy. In the aftermath of 9/11, I decided to leave the government, stay in Morocco and do something that demonstrated true American values. Developing a Rick's Café in Casablanca seemed like a perfect way to do this. As I sent e-mails to friends around the world telling them about my plans, their excitement and enthusiasm gave me an idea. I needed to bring in investors, and what better way than "rounding up the usual suspects." So I designed a flyer that incorporated lines from the film ("Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, I'd like you to buy into mine") and received an overwhelming response. I created a company called The Usual Suspects, and suddenly money from all over the world was being transferred to "The Usual Suspects" in Morocco! When I was planning it I described Rick's Café as more than a restaurant and bar, but a tourism theme project. It captured my passion for architectural preservation, decoration, food, music and entertaining - and got built because of my perserverance and optimism. The development took two years - lots of laughter, lots of tears, and opened on March 1, 2004 to rave reviews. Rick's Cafe was already an institution thanks to the immortal film "Casablanca", and the spirit of Rick's has some of the mythical quality of the movie. Whereas gambling, black marketeering and occasional gunfire were central to the Hollywood Rick's, Casablanca's first Rick's Café has played upon other characteristics of the famous gin joint. And we've collected a teriffic cast of characters, some of whom seem to have been destined to be here.