Art Parties

Free Beers, Indoor Smoking, and Chicken Fingers: How O’Flaherty’s Transformed Itself Into a Prohibition-Style Cafe

Café employee Patrick Bayly with Communism Time For a Bath, Merlin Carpenter, 2003.

"We were panicking," admits Billy Grant. He's recalling how he and artist Jamian Juliano-Villani landed on the latest concept for their cult East Village gallery, O’Flaherty’s. After an exhibition concept fell through, the gallerist-BFF duo urgently needed a backup. Fast forward through weeks of simmering to last night, when they introduced their fever dream, The Café, to the world. The setting: "institutionalized-esque" lighting; a straightforward, cash-only menu of fast food and cheap cocktails; bright yellow picnic tables; and works by artists including Josh Smith, Catherine Murphy, and Merlin Carpenter. The cast: adventurous New Yorkers with an appetite, or curiosity, for debauchery. The outcome: the most fun the Big Apple's art world has had in a while. CULTURED made its way through the crowd and chatted with O'Flaherty's devotees, newcomers, and employees alike about an already legendary night.

Billy Grant.

Billy Grant, Co-owner of O'Flaherty's

CULTURED: Has the night exceeded your expectations?

Billy Grant: I’m glad I didn’t know what was going to happen, but it’s going great.

CULTURED: How would you describe your night in three words?

Grant: No eye contact.

Left to right: Café employees Nate, Spiral, and Aven Paquette.

Spiral, Aven Paquette, and Devin Cronin, Waiters at The Café

CULTURED: How did you end up working for The Café tonight?

Spiral: I was recommended by my friend Dean Kissick.

Aven Paquette: I found about this through an Instagram post.

CULTURED: How would you describe your experience?

Paquette: The experience has been very much “all hands on deck.” I showed up, they asked if I was interested, I said yes, and now I’m here. 

CULTURED: What's the secret to the margarita? 

Devin Cronin: Food coloring… We're very simple, we're a big joke in the restaurant industry. 

Avery and Renée. Image courtesy of the O'Flaherty's Instagram.

Avery and Renée, The Café guests 

CULTURED: How did you snag a The Café shirt before the event started? 

Avery: Earlier this week we saw Rory [Hayatgheybi] dancing in this space, and the music was nice. Rory works here with Billy and Jamian. I opened the door, and we all had a dance party. [Then] they gave us the shirts for free.

CULTURED: What's your take on The Café so far?

Avery: I love the vibe, there’s a lot of people. I love the art even though it’s minimal. It definitely exceeded my expectations, and I didn’t think this many people would come. 

Chloe Mackey, a friend, and Dean Kissick. 

Dean Kissick and Nate Freeman, Writers

CULTURED: What did you expect from tonight? 

Dean Kissick: I'm a huge believer in Jamian and O'Flaherty's. It's the coolest space in the city. I also love cafes, I go to cafes all the time. So if Jamian is opening up a cafe, I'm going. I got my friend a job as a waitress because I knew it would be cool. 

CULTURED: What's your reaction? 

Nate Freeman: This show is meant to bring the community into the gallery in a way that's very transgressive. Everyone loves Jamian and Billy. They are really rethinking the model of what a gallery is in a way that is very strange but inspiring. This is a very busy thoroughfare on Avenue A, and there aren't that many galleries [here] because galleries are usually on side streets. You don't see galleries like this in Chelsea or on Tenth Avenue. They want to be hidden in a way; it's not inviting. What Jamian is doing is bringing people that are not even from the art world into this space. Art is for everyone after all! 

Kissick: Not only is Jamian rethinking the model of the gallery, but I noticed she has actual models here. Tall glamorous models strolling and smoking cigarettes. What more do you want in a cafe at a quarter to 10 on a Thursday night? 

Raúl de Nieves on the right.

Raúl de Nieves, Artist

CULTURED: What brought you here tonight? 

Raúl de Nieves: Nachos!

CULTURED: What did you order?

De Nieves: Bud Light in a can. No wine in a glass for me tonight. 

CULTURED: What mood is the environment putting you in? 

De Nieves: Slanted. 

Untitled (schweiz), Sven Sachsalber, 2020.

Corinne Bai, Egem Yorulmaz, and Carina Imbornone, The Café guests

CULTURED: Why did you all decide to come to this opening together?

Carina Imbornone: We decided to sit together because this was the only space available. I was supposed to come with my friend, but he got punched in the face on the subway so he couldn’t come. 

CULTURED: What’s your take on The Café? How are you feeling about it?

Imbornone: It’s cool because you’re expecting something to happen, but maybe that’s the whole element of the show. Maybe it’s supposed to create a space for things like this to happen where you just sit with random people and talk.

Egem Yorulmaz: It is truly “the cafe.”

Corinne Bai: It feels less superficial than other New York events I’ve been to.

CULTURED: What have you ordered?

Bai: Chicken tenders. I still haven’t tried them yet. My friend told me to be careful because we don’t know if they have a health rating.

The Café's menu.

Eric N. Mack, Artist

CULTURED: What brought you here today? 

Eric N. Mack: I really respect Jamian's work. It's an artist-run gallery, a really cool concept. Billy just handed me a beer for free. 

CULTURED: What's the energy like tonight? 

Mack: It's a nice and relaxed way of seeing art! It feels like a frantic celebration so that's cool. 

CULTURED: A celebration of what?

Mack: The art world, summertime, and weird shit. 

Dusty. Image courtesy of Sebastien Theroux.

Sebastien Theroux, The Café guest

CULTURED: Why did you bring your dog to The Café?

Sebastien Theroux: She needed a walk. 

CULTURED: What’s her name?

Theroux: Dusty.

CULTURED: So how did you and Dusty hear about The Café?  

Theroux: Jack Pierson told me about it. He said it’s not a gallery opening, it’s a movement.

CULTURED: And what are your opinions on it?

Theroux: There’s nothing like this happening; it’s all experiential.


Robbie Volante, Jamian Juliano-Villani's father

CULTURED: What did you expect from tonight? How are you feeling? 

Robbie Volante: Jamian is out of the box. When she was very young, we would go to the Plaza Hotel to check out the Oak Bar and see the Christmas tree. I would tell her, "Someday Jame, we’re going to see J-A-M-I-A-N on a building." Lo and behold, we're pretty close!

CULTURED: How has it been to see her career progress? 

Volante: Amazing. She started with nothing. She could've had help, and she never asked for it. She just grinded her way to the top. It takes a lot of chutzpah, and this comes from a true Italian man. 

CULTURED: How would you describe the night in three words? 

Volante: Same ol' Jamian. 

Cathy, Cathy Murphy, 2001.

Avishag Cohen, Member of Cumgirl8

CULTURED: What did you order? 

Avishag Cohen: I'm drinking a piña colada, my hangover drink. 

CULTURED: How do you feel about the space? What mood does it put you in?

Cohen: This is amazing, people are smoking inside. Hopefully the lights will turn darker in a little bit.

Cameron, Levi, and Jackie.

Cameron, Levi, Jackie, The Café guests

CULTURED: What brought you here? 

Cameron: Kyle Brown, a wonderful waiter whom O'Flaherty's hooked up with a job. We’re here to pay respects and dine. 

Jackie: I think [Kyle's] going to bring this place up to a five star Michelin rating. I don't know if they go to five, but they should for him. 

Levi: I have no interest in art; Kyle Brown's professionalism is what brings me here. 

CULTURED: What did you order? 

Cameron: I got tendies and a classic Budweiser.

Jackie: I don't eat, but so far the piña colada resembles cum, which is fine. 

CULTURED: What's the energy right now? 

Jackie: It's sort of like if the Roman Empire rose and fell in the span of three hours.

Guests at the after-party.