Commemorate the 55th anniversary of the ‘sip-in’ protest at NYC’s Julius’ bar

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Fifty-five years ago this week, one of the most significant gay rights protests took place in the United States. Three gay men walked into a New York City bar, told the bartender they were homosexual, and asked to be served.

The bartender refused the men because of their sexuality. At the time it was illegal in the city for bars to serve known homosexuals. This is despite the fact the venue, Julius’ in Greenwich Village, was already a popular hangout for the LGBTQ community.

 

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That protest took place on April 21, 1966 (three years before the Stonewall uprising of 1969). The three men were Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and John Timmons of the Mattachine Society (a fledgling gay rights group).

(Photo: Julius’ Bar)

The men had already tried three other bars but had been served drinks. At Julius’, where they were joined by Rod Walker, they were refused. It was a blatant act of discrimination.

The men took along a photographer, Fred W. McDarrah, who captured the ‘Sip In’ protest.

Related: Gay bars in New York City

At a time when very few gay men allowed themselves to photographed for the media, the press picked up on the story. Subsequently, the State Liquor Authority backed down on its discriminatory policy of refusing service to known homosexuals.

Despite the refusal of service from that bartender on that night, Julius’ Bar has been a welcoming venue for NYC’s LGBTQ community every since. It’s now the oldest, continually operating gay bar in the city. However, it’s been seriously impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and has had to raise thousand from donations over the last 12 months to survive.

 

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To mark the 55th anniversary of the ‘Sip-In’, it’s inviting people to come down to the bar on Wednesday (April 21) or to make a donation to ensure its survival.

Between 2-10pm, you can book a table to visit (these are likely to fill up quickly so don’t delay!). The bar now stocks a range of LGBTQ-owned drinks brands, so you could even sip on a Stonewall Beer of SUPERGAY Vodka.

Between 5-7pm, you can even recreate the famed photo of the Sip-In, thanks to frames created by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. The group will also be posting images to its Instagram (@nyclgbtsites) during the day. There will also be a raffle fundraiser of dedicated artwork by Tyler Wallach.

 

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Can’t get along to the bar? You could simply donate to the Julius’ Bar’s GoFundMe.

GayCities has recently been running a campaign to help gay bars struggling during the pandemic. Julius’ is one of 50 bars on our fundraising list. If you want to make a donation that’s split between all 50 bars, Head here for more info and to donate.