St. James Infirmary, which recently opened at 445 California Ave., isn’t a new health clinic, although owner Art Farley thinks it may be able to cure what ails you.
Tell me about your bar.
It’s a nice cocktail lounge, kind of an homage to American popular culture. At heart, it’s a movie and music bar. … Our TVs are always running classic movies, as opposed to sports or reality television shows.
I hear you also have a kicking jukebox.
The jukebox is the heart of the bar. I personally don’t think a bar is anything without a jukebox that’s hand-selected by its owners and the people who work there. It’s democratic, but it should reflect the bar and the environment you create as opposed to throwing on iTunes, where customers don’t have a say. I’m completely opposed to the internet vendor [jukebox]—it could go from a holiday tune straight into Slayer.
So what is on your jukebox?
It’s everything from Billie Holiday to Tom Waits, the Stooges, a little jazz and Duke Ellington, and newer stuff like The National and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. … And on our TV, it’s all movies from our library. There’ll be Hitchcock playing … or old westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
“St. James Infirmary” is an old blues standard, right? Why did you choose that name?
For many reasons. Songs like that, they run a thread through American culture. “St. James Infirmary” connects the beginning of New Orleans and blues all the way through today. … It’s been recorded by Van Morrison, the Doors, Merle Haggard, the White Stripes had it on their first record. And the whole song takes place in a bar, and it’s a guy sort of shaking his fist to death. The whole idea of a bar and an infirmary kind of connected; an infirmary gives out medicine and good care, and so does a good bar. …
What’s your background in the bar business?
Bar business put me through school. It’s where I did all my early 20s …. I was gone from Reno by the time I got out of high school—I was in film school and in LA for years. When I came back … I didn’t like any of the nightlife in Reno. I’m not a nightclub person, and I’m not a sports bar person, either. There was a gaping hole in Reno. Every time I thought someone was going to fill it, they didn’t, and I thought ‘I’m not the only person who’s into these things.’ I think there’s a lot of pop culture nerds out there, and that’s what I consider myself, a pop culture nerd.
Do you have food? Live music?
We don’t have food. We have a huge esoteric beer selection … hand selected wines. We do have a cabaret license, so we’ll occasionally have live music. We want to be known as just a really good local bar, where people can hang out, socialize, have a cocktail and watch a movie. With live music, if you do too much, someone who comes in to hang out and socialize [can’t get that]. And this being Reno, there’s only so much good music going around. We consider ourselves a music bar, and four of our six employees are local musicians: Georgia [Mowers from PUSHboX], Ty Williams from My Flag is On Fire and Bryan [Jones] from Buster Blue, and my bar manager Zak [Girdis] worked in LA for years as a musician and sound recording engineer.
Do you have any specialty drinks?
We have a vast drink menu. … We try to have a little fun with it. We have them broken down into two sides for the “Fellas” and the ladies, the “Dames.” … A couple popular drinks are the Moscow Mule. It’s crushed gingerroot, lime juice, and Russian vodka muddled. Another really popular one is Blue Lemon Jefferson, named after the Texas bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson. Then there’s Sazerac; it’s a signature drink of New Orleans. There’s definitely a whole lot of the soul of New Orleans in this bar. “St. James Infirmary” is kind of a New Orleans anthem.