In January, St. James Infirmary quietly closed its doors for renovations, and just as quietly reopened them two weeks ago. Arthur Farley is the owner and proprietor of the Infirmary, as well as Brasserie Saint James and The Saint . Farley launched the Infirmary over a decade ago, and, 11 years later, has made changes in line with his original vision for the place.
What was the idea behind the renovations?
When I originally opened this bar in 2008, it was actually supposed to open at the end of 2006 but there was, like, code changes and the building’s owner had to do a lot of stuff to get us permitted for the operation we wanted. So, we ended up opening, like, a year and a half later than we originally planned. When I actually took possession of it, my son, who’s now almost 11, had just been born three days before. So I was scrambling, to say the least, with a new baby and everything. … There were things that I did I was really happy with, and I love the original St. James, but there were things that I did finish-wise that were more about getting done and getting open than actually what I would’ve done if I had time. As you can see, everything now has this old wood paneling and steel, you know, chrome edges and corners on everything. Because of the galaxy block front and the flat roof of the building, I always saw this place as like a hip father’s den, like a mid-century, Mad Men-esque place. And so I knew I really wanted that, and this time I actually had the time, by shutting it down and gutting it, I had time to do it exactly how I wanted to do it originally while still kind of respecting the original place.
It struck me as kind of a classic Tahoe, Cal-Neva Lodge vibe when I walked in.
You know, when I first turned 21 … my sister was in school in Vegas and I’d go visit her, and I’m from L.A. When I was in L.A., we’d pop into these old bars that were built like in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, and they all had just a cool vibe, which I didn’t feel like newer places had that. They were too industrial or modern or just kind of sterile. A lot of the bars I remember first going to when I came of age had, like, old fireplaces, and they’d have these fireside chats and I always thought that was cool. I knew I wanted to bring that back into vogue.
Anything that you’re happy to have changed, specifically?
I mean, I always wanted to have some rock. But when you’re doing rock on the scale that we’ve done at this time, no one can work in here for those couple of weeks it takes just to do those few rock accent walls. It’s just noisy. It’s messy. So, that was something I just said, “Well, it would be cool, but let’s shelve that for a later date.”… So, that’s the stuff I wanted to put back and the fireplace thing was something I really, really wanted to do, but we’d already permitted—you know, it just didn’t happen.
The fireplace took over the DJ booth. What’s the plan for music?
At first, I thought it was a cool idea to have the band in the window, but you’re walking up behind the band, which is kind of cool but kind of weird too. And now you walk in, you’re sort of rudely walking right in front of the band. And everybody always wants pictures of themselves and the old Reno sign. So I felt, “Well that should be the stage.” So when you walk in, you’re looking straight at the Reno sign, which is right above the stage. And so then I created sort of a built-in DJ room, but the DJ can also set up out on the stage if he wants to.