Iconic NYC Gay Bar Julius’ Eligible For National, State Landmark Status

Dec 27, 2012 by

Years before the first queen lifted a brick at Stonewall, a group of gay men held a historic demonstration at Julius’ Bar, a West Village watering hole now eligible for landmark status.

In 1966, members of the Mattachine Society were frustrated with the New York City ordinance banning the serving of alcohol to openly gay people. So they went over to Julius’—which had attracted the swishy set at least since the 1950s—and announced they were homosexuals.

GVSHP director Andrew Berman explains Julius’ was chosen because it had been raided just days before and was under observation:

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.

Inspired by similar protests against segregated lunch counters, the “sip-in” was one of the first orchestrated acts of civil disobedience against anti-gay demonstration. And it made headlines—though the New York Times called the Mattachine members “sexual deviates.”

Now the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation determined the bar was eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places—and New York State agreed.

In his letter to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, Berman called Julius’ Bar, “a vital and important piece of American history,” and  we can’t argue with that.

Only the Stonewall Inn and the Washington D.C. home of Mattachine founder Frank Kameny are on the New York State Historic Preservation registry for their connection to the gay-rights movement. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has yet to designate any site based on its significance to LGBT history.