“Sip-In” takes place at Julius' Bar in New York City

“Sip-In” takes place at Julius' Bar in New York City

On the afternoon of April 21, 1966, a bar crawl in New York’s West Village leads to an important early moment in the gay liberation movement. In what will be dubbed the “Sip-In,” Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell and John Timmons publicly identify themselves as gay and demand to be served anyway, challenging the unofficial but widespread practice of banning gay customers from bars.

Although the gay community in New York grew and established numerous clandestine hubs over the course of the 1950s and '60s, they were still met with open contempt at most bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in the city. Gay men were often accused of “disorderly conduct” simply for being gay and thrown out of bars even though there was no law against homosexuality or serving gays. These were acts of bigotry, but also self-preservation, as the NYPD routinely raided and shut down bars where gays were known to congregate. It was not uncommon for bars to put up signs with messages like “If you are gay, please stay away,” or the slightly subtler “Patrons Must Face the Bar While Drinking,” a coded warning against men trying to pick up other men.

READ MORE: How the Mob Helped Establish NYC’s Gay Bar Scene

Leitsch, Rodwell, and Timmons—later joined by Randy Wicker—were members of the Mattachine Society, a group that tried to break the taboo around homosexuality and present themselves as clean-cut model citizens to combat homophobia and carve out a place in the public sphere for openly gay men. Borrowing an idea from the civil rights movement, they decided to sit down at various bars in Lower Manhattan, announce that they were gay and refuse to leave without being served. The trio was kicked out of the first bar before they arrived—a reporter they had tipped off beat them to the bar and spilled the beans to the bartender, who closed his bar rather than serve them. The group proceeded to two more bars, telling their servers they were gay, and each instance ended with a discussion with the manager and free drinks for the activists. “I’m starting to feel drunk,” Timmons recalled telling his friends. “We better get this done already.”

They finally made their stand at Julius’ Bar, a spot popular with the gay community. The bartender put a glass down in front of Leitsch as he approached the bar, only to place his hand over it after Leitsch announced that he was gay. A newspaper photographer captured the moment, and the Sip-In became legend. Some accounts of the Sip-In hold that the bartender at Julius’ was playing along with the Mattachine in order to help them attract publicity, while others claim that Julius’, though usually gay-friendly, denied the men their drinks because it had been raided by the police just a few days before.

Although its legacy would be dwarfed by the Stonewall Riots, which began in the same neighborhood three years later, the Sip-In did cause a stir. News of the event prompted an official announcement from the chairman of the New York State Liquor authority, affirming that there was nothing in state law about denying service to gays, and a ruling from New York’s Commission on Human Rights that one could not be denied service simply for being homosexual. Across the river in New Jersey, the Mattachine began suing bar owners who denied them service the following year, winning a state Supreme Court ruling that, while labelling gays “unfortunates,” held that “their status does not make them criminals or outlaws.”

READ MORE: The Gay 'Sip-In' that Drew from the Civil Rights Movement to Fight Discrimination


#PridePioneers: The 1966 “Sip-In” at Julius’ in Greenwich Village

Mattachine Society members John Timmons, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker being refused service by the bartender at Julius’, April 21, 1966. Photo from the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, New York Historical Society

Julius’ is a tavern in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village at West 10th Street and Waverly Place. It might possibly be the oldest continuously operating gay bar in New York City. Yet, its management was actively unwilling to operate as a gay bar, and harassed queer customers until 1966, although it was the favorite bar of Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Rudolf Nureyev.

It was established around 1867, the same year as the Jacob Ruppert Brewery in the Yorkville neighborhood on the Upper East Side. Barrels stamped “Jacob Ruppert” are used for its tables. A butch looking place, with vintage photographs of racing horses and boxers on the wall, plus drawings of Burlesque dancers and an picture signed by showbiz columnist Walter Winchell saying that he loves Julius on the wall. The bar was a popular watering hole in the 1930s and 1940s, part of the Jazz club scene in the Village.

In the late 1950s, it began attracting gay patrons. At the time the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) had a rule that ordered bars not to serve liquor to gay men. Bartenders would often evict known queers or order them not to face other customers to stop them from cruising. Still, gay men continued to be a major part of the clientele into the early 1960s, but the management unwilling for it to become a gay bar, continued to harass them.

On April 21, 1966, members of the Mattachine Society, an early Gay Rights organization, staged what became known as the “Sip-In”. They wanted to challenge the SLA regulations that denied drinks to gay men. The SLA regulations were one of the main methods of governmental oppression against the gay community because they precluded the right to free assembly. This was particularly important because bars were one of the few places where gay people could meet each other. The Sip-In was part of a larger campaign by the Mattachine Society to clarify laws and rules that inhibited the running of gay bars as legitimate, non-mob establishments and to stop the harassment of gay bar patrons.

Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, Randy Wicker and John Timmons, along with several reporters, went to bars, announced that they were “homosexual”, and asked to be served a drink. At their first three stops, they were still served, but at Julius’, which had recently been raided, the bartender refused their request. This refusal received publicity in the New York Times and the now defunct Village Voice.

…when we walked in, the bartender put glasses in front of us, and we told him that we were gay and we intended to remain orderly, we just wanted service. And he said, hey, you’re gay, I can’t serve you, and he put his hands over the top of the glass, which made wonderful photographs.

The reaction by the New York State Liquor Authority and the new New York City Commission on Human Rights resulted in a change in policy and the start of an open gay bar culture. The Sip-In at Julius’ was a key moment in the growth of legitimate gay bars and the development of the bar as the central social space for urban gay men and lesbians.

I am rather certain that there isn’t a gay New Yorker over 50 who doesn’t know the place.


Photo by Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites

In 2016, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to LGBT history.

Julius’ was featured prominently in the Can You Ever Forgive Me?(2018) starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.


Remembering The "Sip-In" For LGBT Rights At Julius' Bar In Greenwich Village

In 1966, three years before the Stonewall riots, a trio of gay rights activists staged a small but significant protest at Julius' Bar in Greenwich Village, where they took seats at the bar, informed the bartender of their sexual orientation, and ordered drinks. This was at the time a radical act—many bars were refusing to serve openly gay customers, and NYC cops routinely raided gay bars, which were threatened with liquor license revocation for "gay activity." Julius' refused to serve the men that day, and Village Voice photographer Fred W. McDarrah captured the exact moment when the barkeep put his hand over a glass to take it away.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the "Sip-In," as it was called (as a nod to the sit-ins of the civil rights movement) some of the same activists recreated the scene at Julius' Bar yesterday. Chief among them were Dick Leitsch and Randy Wicker, who recently recounted the history of that time in a fascinating NY Times profile. An excerpt:

The men, members of the early gay rights group the Mattachine Society, aimed to challenge bars that refused service to gay people, a common practice at the time, though one unsupported by any specific law. Such refusals fell under a vague regulation that banned taverns from serving patrons deemed “disorderly.”

“At the time, being homosexual was, in itself, seen as disorderly,” said Dick Leitsch, 81, reminiscing the other day in his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The activists knew Julius’ had to refuse them, because the night before, a man who had been served there had later been entrapped by an officer for “gay activity,” meaning the bar was in jeopardy of having its liquor license revoked. As they entered, the men spied a sign that read “Patrons Must Face the Bar While Drinking,” an instruction used to thwart cruising.

The next day’s New York Times featured an article about the event with the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.” Two weeks later, a far more sympathetic piece appeared in The Voice. The publicity prompted a response from the chairman of the State Liquor Authority, Donald S. Hostetter, who denied that his organization ever threatened the liquor licenses of bars that served gays. The decision to serve was up to individual bartenders, he said.

At that point, the Commission on Human Rights got involved. Its chairman, William H. Booth, told The Times in a later article: “We have jurisdiction over discrimination based on sex. Denial of bar service to a homosexual solely for that reason would come within those bounds.”

Coinciding with this week's remembrance, Julius' Bar, one of the oldest bars in Manhattan, was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is calling on the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to give the establishment landmark status. (The Stonewall Inn, located a block away, was granted Landmark status last year.)

"As important as the Sip-In was, it is easy for this kind of history to be lost," said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. "And it has been through the efforts of dedicated advocates that the significance of this event has been remembered and given its due. One critical way in which we ensure that history is remembered is to honor and preserve the sites connected to events like these. That is why Julius’ needs and deserves New York City landmark status. Without such designation, even with National Register listing, this building could be altered or destroyed in the future."

State Senator Brad Hoylman pointed out, "It's been said that those who dont' remember the past are doomed to repeat it. While we've come far in securing LGBT rights over the last 50 years, don't think for a second that these rights couldn't be taken from us. Look at what is happening in North Carolina and Mississippi. And let's not forget that transgender New Yorkers don't have full rights, that we still allow therapists to try to convert gay kids, and that non-biological parents in same sex relationships have fewer rights to their kids."

He added, "It's important that we preserve our LGBT history. We don't want this historic building to become a Starbucks!"

Click through on Tod Seelie's photos for a taste of yesterday's Sip-In reenactment.


Julius’ Bar, an LGBT Landmark

On December 5, 2012, GVSHP asked the New York State Office of Historic Preservation to find Julius’ Bar (a Village Award winner) eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places based upon research and documentation we provided (click HERE to see the letter), citing its critically important place not just in New York City history, but also LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trangender) history nationwide. Less than two weeks later, the State did in fact determine Julius’ eligible for State and National Register listing. This made it one of the first sites in the country to achieve this status based upon LGBT history (the first was the Stonewall Inn, which GVSHP co-nominated in 1999). And yet in spite of the recognition of this site’s place in LGBT history, it still lacks New York City landmarks protections as an LGBT site.

Julius’ Bar, courtesy of Google Maps

As background, Julius’ is located at 159 East 10th Street (aka 188 Waverly Place), in a row house built in 1826. Originally the first floor was home to a dry goods store. But by 1864 it housed a bar, and it has done so to this day, making it one of the oldest continuously operating bars in New York City. By the 1950s, the bar had begun to attract gay customers (also making it the oldest gay bar in New York City), even though State Liquor Authority (SLA) rules at the time prohibited bars from serving gay people. Many bar owners went so far as to post signs that read, “If you are gay, please go away.” The owner of Julius’ was no different, despite the growing gay clientele at the bar.

On April 21, 1966, three gay men from the New York City Mattachine Society organized a “Sip-In” (a variation on the ubiquitous “sit-ins” which took place across the country to fight for African-American civil rights), in which they visited four bars to challenge the SLA discriminatory regulations. Formed in 1950, the Mattachine Society was one of the earliest organizations in American dedicated to promoting gay rights.

Their last stop after visiting several others bars was Julius,’ where the bartender refused to serve them after learning they were homosexual. The event marked a critical moment in LGBT history, pre-dating the Stonewall riots at the nearby Stonewall Inn in 1969. Dick Leitsch, then chairman of the Mattachine Society and one of the “Sip-In” participants, noted in a 2008 interview, “the importance of this [event], I think, was that until this time gay people had never really fought back. We just sort of take in everything passively didn’t do anything about it. And this time we did it, and we won.” They chose Julius’ because it had been raided days before and was under observation. Leitsch described the events of the day:

“…when we walked in, the bartender put glasses in front of us, and we told him that we were gay and we intended to remain orderly, we just wanted service. And he said, hey, you’re gay, I can’t serve you, and he put his hands over the top of the glass, which made wonderful photographs. The whole thing ended up in court, and the court decided, well, yes, the Constitution says that people have the right to peacefully assemble and the state can’t take that right away from you. And so the Liquor Authority can’t prevent gay people from congregating in bars.” –Remembering a 1966 ‘Sip-In’ for Gay Rights, Scott Simon, NPR interview, June 28, 2008.

Gay activists are denied service at a 1966 Sip In at Julius’. Photo © 2016 Courtesy Estate of Fred W. McDarrah. All Rights Reserved

Above is the iconic picture that was taken by Fred McDarrah of the Julius’ bartender putting his hand over the glass and refusing the sip-in participants service. If you would like to order this picture or others by Fred McDarrah, click HERE.

The next day The New York Times covered the incident the headline of the article referred to the three participants as “sexual deviates,” illustrating the widespread perception of homosexuality at that time. However, as Leitsch states above, the event marked a rare yet monumental moment when the gay community chose to speak out against the discrimination they had faced for generations. After they were refused service, the three men filed a complaint with the city’s Commission on Human Rights. This led to a 1967 state court ruling that declared the SLA needed “substantial evidence” of indecent behavior to close a bar and not just same-sex kissing or touching. The decision was a landmark case that reversed years of discrimination and became a key catalyst in the eventual gay rights movement beginning in 1969.

Building on GVSHP’s securing of the determination of eligibility, on the 50th anniversary of the Sip-In in 2016, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites project successfully nominated Julius’ for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. While being on the State and National Registers is an important honor, it does not in most cases protect a site from alteration or even demolition. And while the building housing Julius’ is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District and therefore enjoys some measure of NYC Landmarks protections, the designation report makes no note of its significance to cultural, LGBT, or civil rights history, and thus could be unsympathetically altered or demolished if its architectural or other features alone were not deemed worthy of preservation. GVSHP has fought for the designation of Julius’ as an individual New York City landmark along with other significant LGBT sites, such as the LGBT Community Services Center and the former Gay Activitsts Alliance (GAA) Firehouse. In 2019, after a five-year campaign led by Village Preservation, the LGBT Community Services Center and the GAA Firehouse were both landmarked, though the Landmarks Preservation Commission has thus far refused to take similar actions with Julius.’


Before Stonewall: The “Sip In” at Julius’

Gay activists are denied service at a 1966 Sip In at Julius’. Photo © 2016 Courtesy Estate of Fred W. McDarrah. All Rights Reserved

GVSHP recently received an inquiry from a researcher looking for information about the historic 1966 “Sip In” that took place at the bar Julius’. This seminal protest, which challenged the regulation that bars were not allowed to serve homosexuals, took place three years before the historic Stonewall Rebellion. While there are many resources for those looking into the LGBT history of the West Village, there is no published information on the Sip In that took place at Julius’s. So we turned to Tom Bernardin, the unofficial historian of Julius’ Bar, who directed us to some reliable sources.

A conspicuous headline from a New York Times article on the Sip In.

The story goes that members of the New York City Mattachine Society, a national gay rights organization taking inspiration from the civil rights sit-ins of the South, decided to challenge the regulation that prohibited bars from servings gay clients. With reporters in tow, four activists declared they were gay and asked to be served at Julius’. While Julius’ was a historically gay bar, they had recently been raided, which meant they were under observation. Their denial of service helped launch a court case, which declared that the New York State Liquor Authority could not stop service to gay patrons.

While there are no published books dedicated to the history of the Sip In, fortunately there are several online resources, including an interview with Dick Leitsch, a Sip-In participant. There are also a number of online summaries of the event, including one on the Bowery Boys blog and the Daytonian in Manhattan blog.

Want to take a closer look? Julius’ is still open for business at West 10 th Street and Waverly Place and welcomes all to its historic bar. If you see him on your visit, Tom will gladly give you a detailed history of the historic watering hole. Want more information about LBGT history in the Village? Check out GVSHP’s resource page on the topic or this recent Off the Grid post.


'A place of gay history': Destination bar for nearly 160 years struggles to survive

Julius’, a beloved New York City bar, has occupied the corner of Waverly Place and West 10th Street in the West Village for nearly 160 years. With little identifying it beyond its name in simple green cursive, the watering hole’s unassuming exterior belies its importance in gay rights history.

Like the Stonewall Inn just a few hundred feet away, Julius’ has been a lifeline to New York’s queer community for decades.

Now its owner is determined to make sure that legacy — and the bar itself— isn’t a casualty of the pandemic, which has devastated New York City nightlife.

Opened as a dry goods store in 1840, the building at 159 West 10th Street was already serving as a saloon by the 1860s. During Prohibition, Julius’ was a speakeasy, allegedly taking its name from the proprietor. Numerous unmarked doors and basement tunnels used for coal delivery allowed for quick escapes if the bar was raided, according to long-time bartenders Tracy O’Neill and Daniel Onzo.

Much of Julius’ remains unchanged from that era, including the long wooden bar with a century’s worth of “scratchitti” carved into it. Jacob Ruppert Brewery beer barrels serve as tables and stools.

Chandeliers dangling overhead are made from wagon wheels of horse-drawn carriages that once delivered ice.

Julius’ had started attracting a gay following at least by the 1950s and, according to local lore, was a popular hangout for midcentury queer luminaries like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Rudolf Nureyev.

But New York State Liquor Authority regulations at that time prohibited serving drinks to “known or suspected homosexuals,” whose very presence was considered disorderly behavior.

“This law was used to prevent the existence of gay bars, so the ones that did exist were under the control of the criminal underworld,” Randy Wicker, a member of the New York chapter of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights groups, said. Either the mob ran the establishment or bar owners would pay for protection to avoid being raided.

“It forced gay people into that underworld,” Wicker, 83, said. “It led to exploitation, blackmail, people being brutalized.”

Wicker said The Mattachine Society wanted to challenge the liquor laws. “We felt it was very similar to how Black people were being denied the right to sit at a lunch counter,” he said.

The idea for a protest, or a “sip-in” as it was eventually called, was inspired by the sit-ins of the civil rights movement: On April 21, 1966, four members of the New York Mattachine chapter walked into a bar, declared they were homosexuals and demanded to be served. Assuming they would be refused, the group planned to file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Julius’ was actually the fourth place the group hit that day, with Wicker joining Mattachine president Dick Leitsch, vice president Craig Rodwell and member John Timmons. The first bar they visited, the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant, had been tipped off and closed early.

At Howard Johnson’s, the group declared, “We’re homosexuals and we want to be served.”

“The waitress laughed and said, ‘No problem,’ and took the order,” Wicker said.

It was getting late and they were in danger of losing the reporters who had tagged along. Julius’, it turned out, was the perfect spot for their test case: It had a sizable homosexual following, Wicker said, but the management was determined not to let it become a “gay bar.”

“There had been an entrapment case recently — someone went home with an undercover policeman,” he said. “So they patrolled the bar very strictly. If there were too many men together inside, they’d stop letting men in unless you came with a woman.”

The group walked in and ordered, then Leitsch announced, “We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service.”

A photographer for the Village Voice captured the moment the bartender put his hand over a glass and stopped making their drinks.

“I think it’s against the law,” he said, according to Wicker.

It was exactly the reaction Mattachine members had hoped for: Publicity from the “sip-in” led to the New York State Supreme Court ruling a year later that simply being gay — or even cruising or kissing — was not indecent behavior.

It didn’t just change liquor regulations, Wicker said. “It helped moved the gay community out of the grasp of the criminal world.”

Within a few years, there were legitimate, independent gay bars. They remained the nexus of gay life for decades, said LGBTQ historian Ken Lustbader, cofounder of the New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project.

“Because of LGBTQ discrimination by authorities, in policy and practice, there were really no other meeting places, no community centers,” he said. “Julius’ has been that space for so many people for so many years.”

And while New York’s gay bar scene has become a shadow of its former size — a victim of assimilation, gentrification and dating apps — Julius’ remained packed most weekends.

“I think there’s a pilgrimage aspect of it, especially for younger people,” Brian Sloan, a filmmaker who lived in the West Village for 20 years, said. “It has historical significance but it’s also a throwback to what gay bars used to be — lively, friendly, unpretentious. That’s harder to find now.”

Julius' is still popular with celebrities — Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zachary Quinto and Neil Patrick Harris have all stopped in, according to staff and regulars — and it has appeared in numerous films, including the Oscar-nominated Melissa McCarthy movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “The Boys in the Band,” both William Friedkin's 1970 movie and the 2020 Netflix adaptation by Ryan Murphy.

Director John Cameron Mitchell, who first ventured into Julius’ in 1985, calls it his “local bar.”

“It's dripping with queer history,” he said. “The photos on the wall, the Mattachine sip-in. It really led to the legalization of gay bars in New York.”

In 2008, Mitchell launched a monthly dance party at Julius’ called, appropriately enough, Mattachine.

“[We] wanted to preserve the feeling of our favorite alt-queer bars where you could hear rock, new wave, soul, funk and even slow jams,” he said. “Every month we honored a queer icon, and if they were still alive they would show up.”

Honorees have included the neurologist Oliver Sacks, the punk rock impresario Danny Fields, the Village People’s Randy Jones and Leitsch himself. “We even cursed queer villains like Roy Cohn in absentia,” Mitchell said of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel. Cohn targeted government officials as communists and homosexuals, despite being gay himself.

There’s no denying Julius’ place in history but, by drawing hundreds of revelers late into the night, the Mattachine parties have helped keep the bar from turning into a museum piece.

In 2016, the 50th anniversary of the sip-in, Julius’ was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in “an important early event in the modern gay rights movement.”

Lustbader, who helped get the designation, said it’s mostly honorific and doesn’t protect the business itself, which has been hobbled by coronavirus lockdowns.

While Julius’ is part of the Greenwich Village Historic District, “preservation cares about the building itself,” he said. “We can’t protect what it’s used for.” “Here we have the authentic use of a historical space that’s still intact,” he added. “That’s really quite extraordinary.”

Helen Buford and her husband, Eugene, bought Julius’ in 2000.

“When we got the place, it was just a business decision,” Buford said. “But once my husband died and I started to be at the bar more often, a customer sat me down and said, ‘I don't know what your plans are for this bar but, you know, it’s very important to the community. And this is why.’ And he proceeded to tell me about the sip-in. And I was floored.”

She’s worked to keep both the look and the spirit of the bar intact. Every Thanksgiving Buford offers a free hot buffet for anyone who might need a place to spend the holidays.

The pandemic forced Buford to close the bar a few days before St. Patrick’s Day 2020 and keep it shut through Memorial Day weekend.

“During that time we were still meeting at the bar, a couple of employees, and just trying to safely clean up things and get ready to eventually reopen,” she said. “But of course it went on a lot longer than any anticipated — I went from having 20 employees to, at one point, having none.”

Since the pandemic started, she’s gone from offering burgers to-go, to providing outdoor seating, then to limited indoor seating. On Dec. 20, the bar shut down completely again, reopening in time for Valentine's Day weekend, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo restored limited indoor dining. Since then, business has been good — relatively speaking.

“Let's put it this way — what I make now in a week is what I used to make in a day,” she said.

On a good week she’s able to make payroll. Sometimes she’s not even able to do that. “I took money from my personal account and put it in there,” Buford said. “I wanted to pay my guys.”

In the beginning, Buford was able to pay full rent. Eventually, when it became clear the pandemic was going to last more than a few months, she worked out a deal with the landlord to pay a quarter of the rent until things went back to normal. “And that’s where we are now,” she said.

Meanwhile the bar has sunk deeper into debt. Buford launched a GoFundMe last summer to help defray costs. While it’s generated more than $111,000, it’s still nearly well shy of the $200,000 goal.

Last year the Gill Foundation, an LGBTQ grantmaking organization, gave a $250,000 lifeline to the Stonewall Inn, which was on the brink of closing. Once co-chairs Scott Miller and Tim Gill heard about Buford’s plight, they contributed $20,000 to support Julius’, as well.

On March 1, the foundation announced it would match contributions to Buford’s GoFundMe up to $25,000.

Lustbader describes Julius’ as one of the most intact, authentic gay bars in the country.

“Helen’s stewardship of Julius’, not just as a bar, but as a place of history, has really filtered down into the DNA of the space,” he said. “People can walk in and there’s some reverence to the past. But it’s also very much alive.”


11 LGBTQ Historic Landmarks In New York City

It’s impossible to consider the history of the LGBTQ movement without thinking about New York City.

From the riots at Stonewall to sip-ins at Julius’, the history of the queer movement is intimately intertwined with New York’s.

A new project is helping document and connect some of the most significant locations for LGBTQ people across the city’s five boroughs.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is working to create a large-scale documentation of sites around the city that convey the community’s influence on American culture.

The New York Community Trust, an organization with a history of funding projects that advance and protect LGBTQ history, was the first private funder of the project.

“The project has identified sites that date back hundreds of years to today that illustrate important moments in the struggle for LGBT civil rights,” said Kerry McCarthy of the New York Community Trust. “But also sites that shine a light on important aspects of our heritage and history as New Yorkers and Americans, given the incredible contributions that LGBT New Yorkers have made.”

“Most people conceptualize Stonewall as the birthplace of LGBT activism, but we really want to show people that there was LGBT lives and LGBT history and LGBT narrative in New York City that led up to Stonewall and contributed to that starting in the 17th century,” Ken Lustbader of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project told HuffPost. “Real activism in New York was taking place in the 1950s and ’60s, predating Stonewall, and if it wasn’t for those people already organizing, there would not have been a Stonewall.”

Below, check out 11 of the places listed in the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, and head here to view the growing database of queer history in New York City.

Site descriptions have been republished with permission from the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

LGBT Community Center

Since 1983, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center has served as a vital support system for hundreds of thousands of people.

The center has witnessed the founding of ACT UP, GLAAD, Las Buenas Amigas, Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers and for many years was the meeting location for the Metropolitan Community Church of New York and SAGE.

The Gender Identity Project, which was established here in 1989, is the longest-running service provider for the transgender and gender-nonconforming community in the state.

Christopher Street Piers

For over a century, the Greenwich Village Hudson River waterfront, including the Christopher Street Pier at West 10th Street, has been a destination for the LGBT community that has evolved from a place for cruising and sex for gay men to an important safe haven for a marginalized queer community — mostly queer homeless youths of color.

From 1971 to 1983, the interiors of the piers’ ruin-like terminals featured a diverse range of artistic work, including site-based installations, photography, murals and performances.

Lorraine Hansberry Residence

From 1953 to 1960, playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry resided in the third-floor apartment of this building.

While here, Hansberry lived parallel lives: one as the celebrated playwright of “A Raisin in the Sun,” the first play by a black woman to appear on Broadway, and the other as a woman who privately explored her homosexuality through her writing, relationships and social circle.

Lesbian Herstory Archives

Founded in 1974, the Lesbian Herstory Archives was first housed on the Upper West Side of Manhattan before opening its current location in Brooklyn’s Park Slope in 1993.

The volunteer-based archives, which also serves as a museum and community center, has one of the world’s largest collection of records “by and about lesbians and their communities,” according to its website

New York Stock Exchange – ACT UP Demonstrations

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power formed in 1987 to call attention to the AIDS crisis. In 1988 and ’89, it held two huge demonstrations at the New York Stock Exchange to protest the high price of the AIDS drug AZT, which was unaffordable to most people living with HIV.

Stonewall Inn

From June 28 to July 3, 1969, LGBT patrons of the Stonewall Inn and members of the local community took the unusual action of fighting back during a routine police raid at the bar.

The events during that six-day period are seen as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement, with large numbers of groups forming around the country in the following years.

The Stonewall Inn was the first LGBT site in the country to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1999) and named a National Historic Landmark (2000), with additional city, state and federal recognition in 2015 and 2016.

Julius’

On April 21, 1966, a sip-in was organized by members of the Mattachine Society, one of the country’s earliest gay rights organizations, to challenge the State Liquor Authority’s discriminatory policy of revoking the licenses of bars that served known or suspected gay men and lesbians.

Rivington House

In 1995 this former public school reopened as a 219-bed nursing home for people with AIDS — the largest of its kind in New York City.

Rivington House was controversially sold by the city to a private developer in 2015.

Audre Lorde Residence

Acclaimed black lesbian feminist, writer and activist Audre Lorde lived here with her partner and two children from 1972 to 1987.

In that time, Lorde was a prolific and influential writer, co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and spoke at the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Bayard Rustin Residence

Bayard Rustin, one of the most important yet least-known figures of the civil rights movement, lived in an apartment in this Chelsea building complex from 1963 to his death in 1987.

While here, he served as the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and took part in numerous social justice campaigns around the world.

Transy House

Transy House was a transgender collective operated by Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Goodwin from 1995 to 2008.

It provided shelter for trans and gender-nonconforming people in need, served as a center for trans activism and was the last residence of pioneering LGBT rights activist Sylvia Rivera.

#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.


Historic Gay Bar Julius’ Latest In Risk Of Closing

It is the perfect storm unfortunately. Before Covid even appeared, the concept of a gay bar was disappearing around the world as its elevated status as a safe place slowly diminished with more societal acceptance and more LGBTQ legal protections. Patrons no longer felt the need to meet and mix exclusively at bars in gayborhoods. The trend accelerated with the wide spread adoption of smart phone apps to meet people virtually and to set up dates without ever leaving one’s bed. Now with the immense economic pressure from a year of Covid restrictions, gay bars are beginning to close permanently.

In Los Angeles while Lance Bass is hoping to revitalize nights in West Hollywood by taking over the former Rage nightclub from its landlord Monte Overstreet, that same landlord has been intransigent with the owners of such long-standing landmarks as Oil Can Harry’s and The Gold Coast. One by one, these cherished addresses are being lost to history because of the greed of a few landlords coupled with the inadequate help from the government due to the pandemic.

Now, in New York City, one of the few bars that remains from prior to 1969’s Stonewall riots is similarly at risk of permanently closing.

Julius’ Bar on West 10th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village has been in existence since the 1860s as a tavern, and prior to that as a dry goods store. Over the years it gradually began attracting local residents of the Village: writers, artists, Broadway actors, singers, and dancers. In short, gay men. Such stars as Rudolf Nureyev and Truman Capote were among the reputed regulars in its heyday.

An NBC News article states that in the 1950s “New York State Liquor Authority regulations at that time prohibited serving drinks to “known or suspected homosexuals,” whose very presence was considered disorderly behavior.”

“This law was used to prevent the existence of gay bars, so the ones that did exist were under the control of the criminal underworld,” Randy Wicker, a member of the New York chapter of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights groups, said. Either the mob ran the establishment or bar owners would pay for protection to avoid being raided.

“It forced gay people into that underworld,” Wicker, 83, said. “It led to exploitation, blackmail, people being brutalized.”

Taking a cue from the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Mattachine Society decided they wanted to fight this discriminatory environment which forbade serving homosexuals, so in 1966 four members of this gay liberation movement informed the local press that they were going to stage a “Sip In” at various bars in Manhattan. They would walk in and announce they were homosexuals, and ask to be served a drink. If the establishment refused, they were going to formally file a complaint with the New York Commission on Civil Rights.

The first bar they went to was tipped off that they were coming and closed early. When the activists arrived at the Howard Johnson’s Hotel bar, the waitress said “no problem” and served them, much to their chagrin. Finally, the group with press in tow went to Julius’, which everyone knew was a gay bar but which preferred to keep its reputation on the “down low.”

For a fantastic photo of the bartender putting his hand over a just prepared cocktail upon hearing that the newly arrived customers were homosexuals, check it out here on the NYC LGBT Historic Site. The bar’s refusal to sell to someone who was openly gay led to a legal battle that went all the way up to the New York State Supreme Court. The Mattachine Society won and the landmark ruling decriminalized being gay.

Today the bar is deeply in debt due to the pandemic. The owner has launched a GoFundMe with a goal of raising $200,000 and has received considerable community support in her efforts to keep the business afloat.

If you have a favorite gay bar, tell us about it! Let’s all support our local LGBTQ institutions, and preserve our history.


Julius’

On April 21, 1966, a “Sip-In” was organized by members of the Mattachine Society, one of the country’s earliest gay rights organizations, to challenge the State Liquor Authority’s discriminatory policy of revoking the licenses of bars that served known or suspected gay men and lesbians.

The publicized event – at which they were refused service after intentionally revealing they were “homosexuals” – was one of the earliest pre-Stonewall public actions for LGBT rights as well as a big step forward in the eventual development of legitimate LGBT bars in New York City.

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(left to right) Mattachine Society members John Timmons, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker being refused service by the bartender at Julius', April 21, 1966. Gift of The Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

Julius' bar, 2015. Photo by Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

The backroom, 2015. Photo by Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

Julius' bar, 2016. Photo by Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

Coverage of the April 21, 1966 Sip-In. (top) The Village Voice (bottom) The New York Times.

Before Julius', the Mattachine Society members tried three other locations. First, the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant at 12 St. Mark's Place in the East Village.

Dick Leitsch outside the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant at 12 St. Mark's Place, April 21, 1966. Gift of The Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and John Timmons in front of the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant at 12 St. Mark's Place in the East Village, April 21, 1966. Gift of The Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

Second stop: Howard Johnson's at 415 Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, c. 1965. Photo by Weegee. Source unknown.

Mattachine Society members Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and John Timmons at Howard Johnson's, 415 Sixth Avenue, April 21, 1966. Gift of The Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

Third stop: The Waikiki at 432 Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, c. 1965. Photo by John Barrington Bayley. Courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The manager (standing) of the Waikiki, 432 Sixth Avenue, speaking to the Mattachine Society members, April 21, 1966. Gift of The Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

(1 of 2) Press release written by Craig Rodwell on April 22, 1966, following the action at Julius'. Courtesy of the Craig Rodwell Papers, The New York Public Library.

(2 of 2) Press release written by Craig Rodwell on April 22, 1966, following the action at Julius'. Courtesy of the Craig Rodwell Papers, The New York Public Library.

Looking northeast on Seventh Avenue at 10th Street with a painted advertisement for Julius' reading "Around the Corner. Serving Delicious Food," c. 1932. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Exterior of the building, 1932. Courtesy of Ellen Williams via "Daytonian in Manhattan" blog.

Tax photo of 159 West 10th Street, c. 1939. Courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives.

Exterior of the building, c. 1966-67. Photo by John Barrington Bayley. Courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Exterior of the building, early 1980s. Courtesy of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, building file.

Deconstruction of the exterior to address structural issues, 1982. Julius' remained open. Photographer and source unknown.

History

There has been a bar on the corner of Waverly Place and West 10th Street since the mid-19th century. The name “Julius’ dates from c. 1930 when the bar began to become popular with sports figures and other celebrities. By the 1960s, Julius’ began attracting gay men, although it was not exclusively a gay bar.

On April 21, 1966, members of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group, organized what became known as the “Sip-In.” Their intent was to challenge New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) regulations that were promulgated so that bars could not serve drinks to known or suspected gay men or lesbians, since their presence was considered de facto disorderly. The SLA regulations were one of the primary governmental mechanisms of oppression against the gay community because they precluded the right to free assembly. This was particularly important because bars were one of the few places where gay people could meet each other. The Sip-In was part of a larger campaign by more radical members of the Mattachine Society to clarify laws and rules that inhibited the running of gay bars as legitimate, non-mob establishments and to stop the harassment of gay bar patrons.

Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and John Timmons, accompanied by several reporters, went to a number of bars, announced that they were “homosexuals,” and asked to be served a drink. At their first stop, the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant, the bar had closed, while at their next two attempts, at a Howard Johnson’s and at the Hawaiian-themed Waikiki, they had been served. They then moved on to Julius’ and were joined by Randy Wicker. However, at Julius’, which had recently been raided, the bartender refused their request. This refusal received publicity in the New York Times and the Village Voice.

The reaction by the State Liquor Authority and the newly-empowered New York City Commission on Human Rights resulted in a change in policy and the birth of a more open gay bar culture. Scholars of gay history consider the Sip-In at Julius’ a key event leading to the growth of legitimate gay bars and the development of the bar as the central social space for urban gay men and lesbians.

Landmark Designations for LGBT Significance

In April 2016, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s nomination of Julius’ to the National Register of Historic Places was approved by the National Park Service, following the site’s listing on the New York State Register of Historic Places in December 2015. The nomination is available in the “Read More” section below.


Before Stonewall, There Was Julius’, NYC’s Oldest Gay Bar

In the heart of the West Village, steps from the Christopher Street train station, stands a historic gay bar. Once, about a half a century ago, it found itself at the epicenter of an unprecedented protest asserting gay people’s right to gather in public spaces without police harassment.

Not the iconic Stonewall Inn, but Julius’.

At the corner of Waverly Place and West 10th Street, Julius’ is the oldest gay bar in New York City. And in April 1966, three years before the famed riots at nearby Stonewall that many historians mark as the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Julius’ was the site of a very different rebellion: a “Sip-In.”

The Sip-In was the brainchild of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group. Mattachine, led by president Dick Leitsch, was out to solve a problem: though the State Liquor Authority had no regulation against serving gay people in bars, it did prohibit establishments from serving “disorderly” patrons—and all gay people were considered, by interpretation, disorderly.

The Mattachines set a plan. They would visit a bar, announce they were gay, and request a drink. When the business inevitably declined to serve them, they would file a complaint with the State Liquor Authority, forcing the state to recognize that refusing to serve gay patrons was a violation of their civil rights.

Julius’ was the fourth bar visited by the group on April 21, 1966—the first three either shut down in anticipation of their arrival or, bemused by the stunt, served them openly.

Paradoxically, it was precisely Julius’ popularity with gay customers that made it a sure bet for the outcome the Mattachines sought. The establishment was a frequent target of the police, its patrons often entrapped and arrested for “solicitation” by plainclothes officers. The activists knew the bar would not risk serving four men who sat down and publicly announced their homosexuality.

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Their plan worked. The activists ordered their drinks, then stated they were gay. The bartender quickly covered a glass with his hand, indicating his refusal to serve them. A Village Voice photographer, Fred McDarrah, captured the moment in an iconic photograph that still hangs at Julius’ today.

The Mattachine Society never successfully filed a discrimination suit based on the Sip-In, though in a related case the following year, a state court ruled that bars could not be shut down for the presence of homosexuality alone. But the message they espoused—that they had the right not just to exist in public spaces, but to be out in those spaces—is one that still resonates. Only in June of this year did the Supreme Court rule on another case that, if decided differently, could have endangered any queer or trans person who dared to declare their identity openly in a hostile space.

Julius’, at the corner of Waverly Place and West 10th Street, New York City / Photo by dbimages, Alamy

Today, Julius’ has been in operation for some 150-plus years, having opened in the 1860s and remained in business throughout the entire twentieth century. Its long history is evident in the physical space. Julius’ is practically a museum, from the wagon-wheel chandeliers to the Jacob Ruppert Brewery barrels that support the century-old oak bar. Framed black-and-white photos on the wall have been up for at least 75 years, and probably longer—they appear in the background of a picture that the photographer Weegee took at the bar in 1945.

Even the menu is old. The bar’s tiny kitchen still serves the same hamburgers that a guidebook author called “peerless” in 1959.

That history is important, says Ken Lustbader, one of the founders and directors of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which successfully nominated Julius’ to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

“It’s what a community space should look like…you get to meet some of our queer elders and have conversations with people who have been in that same seat for 30 years or more. And I think that’s something to embrace.” —Jason Rosenberg, member of ACT UP and Julius’ patron

“Julius’ is authentic,” he says. “You go to Julius’ and you’re in a physical space that would be recognizable to someone who went there in the early twentieth century. So, in some ways you’re time-traveling. It enables you to go in there and know that there were so many people who came before you, and that history was made in this location that changed the trajectory of LGBT rights…that’s the wonder of it.”

ACT UP, the long-running queer activist group, hosts an annual fundraiser at Julius’, bringing in a DJ and decking the bar with ACT UP buttons, flyers and signs.

“It’s my favorite bar,” says Jason Rosenberg, a member of ACT UP who’s been visiting Julius’ for about five years. “It’s one of the few queer bars that have stuck to its roots of serving the community and actually investing its time and energy in the community.”

The bar’s widely beloved owner, Helen Buford, donates to the organization every year. She also opens Julius’ doors wide on Thanksgiving and Christmas, serving a buffet dinner for anyone who might want to spend the holiday there.

“It’s what a community space should look like,” says Rosenberg. Plus, he adds, “you get to meet some of our queer elders and have conversations with people who have been in that same seat for 30 years or more. And I think that’s something to embrace.”

In 1966, at the time of the Sip-In, Julius’ had been a popular gay haunt for close to a decade—one 1964 write-up describes it, euphemistically, as drawing “an amazing quantity of attractive men, theater notables.” But it was far from an openly gay bar, as the Mattachines Sip-In illustrated. Their protest called for recognition—it was, in a sense, the first public claim to Julius’ as a gay space. Their protest called for recognition. It was, in a sense, the first public claim to Julius’ as a gay space.

Today, 54 years later, they have definitively won. Julius’ big windows face onto the street, the bar’s unofficial historian and long-time regular Tom Bernardin points out. They are open, inviting they hide nothing. And this month, for Pride, they are decorated with long paper chains of rainbow hearts.

“We need it,” says Bernardin, when asked about what makes Julius’ special. “Marriage equality, the Supreme Court [ruling], all of that’s great news. But we need a place to be able to talk.”


Watch the video: Julius Bar site of historic gay sip in threatened by pandemic