Folks, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. That Tokyo-style cat cafe that might be coming to Williamsburg? Please don’t curl up into a ball when you hear this, but Purrfect Strangers was all just a crazy little experiment. Allow us to explain.
Bedford + Bowery, a collaboration with New York magazine, is opening an interactive newsroom at 155 Grand Street in Williamsburg, where we’ll have readings, discussions, performances, and who knows, maybe cats (Lil Bub does have a book out).
So why did we put up a poster saying we were opening a cafe with 100% hypoallergenic cats, gourmet coffee, and “nibbles from Brooklyn artisans”? Well, we wanted to find out just how quickly something completely ridiculoso could go viral while also testing the diligence of our local news gatherers. (Actually, our Newsroom will still have gourmet coffee.) Here’s how it went down.
Saturday night, 9 p.m.
We put the poster up. A few people stop to check it out but social media is pretty much silent. It’s Saturday night, after all — people have better stuff to do. A marching band is going down Bedford Avenue.
While installing the Newsroom’s mini ping-pong table we notice some excited gawkers, but for the most part the internet is focused on another cat cafe (an actual one) that, unbenknownst to us, is opening in London. The wrong cat cafe is going viral!
Monday, 8:43 a.m.
We still haven’t pushed the poster to anyone. We’re tempted to point it out in the comments section of Jezebel’s post about the London cat cafe, but we resist: the idea here is to see how long it takes for something IRL to gain a life of its own on social media without any nudging. Our Newsroom is all about integrating the online world with the streets, you see. But then photographer Noah Kalina happens by the poster.
I don’t know what this is but I think I’m excited. pic.twitter.com/Buzy8F0ybl
— Noah Kalina (@noahkalina) September 16, 2013
His followers are also excited: “I went to a Cat Cafe with @nickgray in Tokyo,” tweets Jake Lodwick, a founder of Vimeo and a partner in Mast Brothers Chocolate. “You drink tea while petting cats. It’s almost Lynchian. Can’t wait.”
Free Williamsburg posts Kalina’s photo and tweets it. Kudos to writer Josh Morrissey for expressing some doubt (people have been pulling this stuff ever since that faux Starbucks signage went up on Bedford Ave in 1998, after all): “Who knows if the Williamsburg café is real, but this is Brooklyn so literally nothing would surprise me.”
Timeout editor Amy Plitt tweets her post reblogging Free Dubya and telling Timeout’s readers to “tentatively get excited about this.” She acknowledges, “Of course, this could all be bunk — as a commenter on Free Williamsburg pointed out, the city’s health code for restaurants states that any live animals ‘are to be excluded from food service operations.'” Plitt says Timeout is “attempting to get to the bottom of this mystery.”
The poster hits Instagram, care of photographer Glenn Glasser:
And Twitter is all, well, atwitter with cat lovers just totally losing it.
Some people need it to be true:
— Jared Currier (@JaredCurrier) September 18, 2013
And others are talking like it is true:
Tuesday, around noon
Soon after we arrive to the Newsroom, this dude on the sidewalk sets up a very professional looking camera in front of the poster. A woman who is very clearly a local news reporter taps on the glass and introduces herself as Amy Dardashtian. She wants to talk to the owner of Purrfect Strangers. We tell her we’re not ready to say anything about the space yet and she tells us CBS 2 is running a story at 6 p.m. whether we talk or not. Here’s where we decide to follow this apparently-not-a-cat-person’s advice:
SHUT IT DOWN http://t.co/EjA32ops1X
— Chappell Ellison (@ChappellTracker) September 17, 2013
It’s clearly time to (cat?)nip this in the bud. After all, Dardashtian has gone to the trouble of tracking us down and asking some questions (yay, journalism!). Let’s reward her with the truth. We’ve been in the space all day and the only other person who knocked was the guy from Clear As Glass Glass, to offer his window-washing services (very reasonable rates!)
We should probably apologize to the people above, and everyone else who got very excited about this. If nothing else, let this be proof that a Tokyo-style cat cafe would do gangbusters in Williamsburg if someone actually opened one, even if some people weren’t the biggest fans:
Sometimes New York is just the worst http://t.co/MoIYOccruV
— Lainna Fader (@lainnafader) September 16, 2013
And so, we’re offering up the Purrfect Strangers poster and business concept (“our DJs are the only ones that scratch!”) to the first person who comes by our newsroom at 155 Grand, just off of Bedford.
Everyone else, stay tuned in the coming days as we announce the Newsroom’s lineup of speakers and performers, starting with Lower East Side documentarian, gallerist, artist and historian Clayton Patterson, LES punk-era chroniclers Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers of Nightclubbing, legendary Brooklyn street artist Rostarr, Williamsburg novelist Bradley Spinelli, East Village musician and memoirst Rayya Elias, Lower East Side DJ and memoirist Brendan Jay Sullivan, new Village Voice editor Tom Finkel, Bushwick novelist and publisher Maggie Craig, filmmaker Dima Dubson (who will screen his documentary about East Village musician Adam Green) and many others whose appearances will be documented for this site. We’re here through October. Stop by and play some ping-pong!