New York's oldest gay bar declared an official landmark

Since the 1960s, Julius' has had a significant history in progressing LGBTQ+ rights.

New York's oldest gay bar, Julius'.
Image: Twitter via @DCHomos

On December 6, 2022, New York’s oldest gay bar Julius’ was officially declared an individual landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

The New York City LPC has commented on their decision to recognise the Greenwich Village venue, stating: “Julius’ Bar is one of the city’s most significant sites of LGBTQ+ history for the role it played in advancing the rights of gay and lesbian New Yorkers.”

The building was first used as a grocery store back in the 1840s and later became a bar in 1864. Its queer history began in the 1960s when Julius’ began attracting gay male customers, although it was not exclusively a gay bar. On April 21, 1966, three years before the Stonewall riots, three men went to Julius’ bar to conduct a ‘Sip-In’ protest. They specifically carried out this demonstration at Julius’ to protest the closure of bars by city and state authorities simply for serving gay people.

These members of the Mattachine Society, who were an early LGBTQ+ rights group, aimed to challenge the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) regulations that enforced bars to not serve drinks to known or suspected queer people as their presence was considered disorderly. These SLA regulations were one of the main forms of oppression by the government against the community, with bars being one of the few places where LGBTQ+ people could meet each other. Today, Julius’ Bar is recognised as a monument of pre-Stonewall LGBTQ+ rights activism with much of the original architecture and structure of the building remaining preserved.

As New York’s oldest gay bar was officially declared an individual landmark, City Mayor Eric Adams commented, “The ‘Sip-In’ at Julius’ was a pivotal moment in our city and our nation’s LGBTQ+ history, and this designation today marks not only that moment but also Julius’ half-century as a home for New York City’s LGBTQ+ community.”

Erik Bottcher, who is an openly gay New York Council member, was present at the venue and expressed his thoughts on the declaration.

“I am drawing strength from this site because we need to have the same kind of courage that they had during that very, very difficult time,” he said.

A local heritage group called Village Preservation also celebrated the individual landmark title on Twitter, thanking everyone that campaigned with them for a full decade to have the bar recognised by the city’s LPC. “Now let’s continue the fight to ensure more LGBTQ+ civil rights and underrepresented histories are honored+preserved,” the organisation added.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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