The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has unanimously designated Julius’ Bar, the city’s oldest continuously-running gay bar, as an official landmark.
The oldest gay bar in the city and site of the 1966 “sip-in” demonstration is now an official landmark, having earned an 11-0 vote, held during a virtual hearing on December 6. The bar was already previously protected by a broader landmark designation in the Greenwich Village Historic District, which comprises of more than 2,000 buildings across 100 blocks in Manhattan.
Nevertheless, with gay bars—and especially lesbian bars—vanishing all across the country, it was hailed as a victory. For more than a decade, groups such as Village Preservation and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project have pushed to accord the bar, which is located at 159 West 10th Street, landmark status.
During the hearing, historian Michael Caratzas told the story of the 1966 “sip-in,” a pivotal moment in queer history on April 21, 1966 when four gay men from the Mattachine Society — Dick Leitsch, Randy Wicker, Craig Rodwell, and John Timmons — went from bar to bar stating that they were homosexuals and wanted to be served alcohol. When the men arrived at Julius’ Bar and asked to be served, a Village Voice photographer took a photo of a bartender covering a glass and denying them service. The bar was not specifically known as a gay bar at the time, but gay patrons frequented the bar. The demonstration and the photograph gave the issue the exposure it needed to change the state’s liquor law that had banned bartenders from serving gay people.
“As the site of the sip-in, the building shines a light on the activism leading up to the Stonewall Rebellion and remains a place of active LGBTQ history and commemoration,” Caratzas said. “The research staff recommends that the commission vote to designate the Julius’ Bar building as a New York City landmark.”
Visit Julius’ gay bar next time you are in Manhattan and celebrate this long overdue milestone. The bar regularly holds parties and events, and was a location in the original film version of Boys In the Band (1970), and most recently a location in the Melissa McCarthy/ Ian McKellen movie Can You Ever Forgive Me?