Julius', New York's Oldest Gay Bar, Is Finally a Landmark
Julius' is a favorite hangout among New York's queer community, known for its cozy atmosphere and killer burgers — and now the historic bar is officially a New York City landmark.
During a virtual hearing on Dec. 6, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted in favor of historic designation for the Greenwich Village bar, with one commissioner, Wellington Chen, calling landmark status “long overdue,” according to NY1. This comes after a decade-long campaign to honor the city's oldest gay bar, and the site will now be protected from demolition or alteration.
“Julius’ finally has the landmark status it deserves,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, in a statement. “This is a huge step forward in recognizing our city’s history as a refuge and home to the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ community.”
“This is an integral part of New York and American history, and these stories and places must be honored and preserved,” Berman continued. “We praise the city for taking this long-overdue action and urge them to keep going.”
As Logo previously reported, Julius’ opened in 1867 and was already popular with gay patrons by the 1950s, even though homosexuals were technically banned from drinking in bars. On April 21, 1966, three years before the Stonewall Uprising, three gay men decided to protest the ban by having a “sip-in” at Julius’. “We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service,” they declared to the bartender.
John Timmons, Craig Rodwell, and Dick Leitsch—all members of the early gay rights group The Mattachine Society—were refused service on the grounds that having gay men in the bar would make it a “disorderly premise.” The bartender actually started preparing them a drink but put his hand over the glass, a moment that was captured by a New York Times photographer.
After the “sip-in,” the men challenged the State Liquor Association, claiming that denying service to homosexuals was discriminatory. They won, and the law was struck from the books. It was a significant early victory for the gay rights movement.
In a statement after the Landmarks Preservation Commission vote, Berman added: “It’s been a decade-long effort, but Julius’ finally has the landmark status it deserves."