One of New York City's oldest gay bars on track to become city landmark

BySonia Rincón via WABC logo
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
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One of New York's oldest gay bars, which played a pivotal role in advancing the rights of gay New Yorkers, is on track for landmark status. Sonia Rincon has an update.

WEST VILLAGE, Manhattan -- One of New York's oldest gay bars, which played a pivotal role in advancing the rights of gay New Yorkers, is on track for landmark status.

If Julius' bar looks familiar, you might have seen it in movies and TV shows. But also proudly displayed is the story of the role it played in the fight for civil rights for the LGBTQ community, and the heroes of that movement.

"In 1966, we had something called the sip-in," Julius' Bar manager Nick Gabriellini said. "Where the state liquor authority didn't allow homosexuals to be served alcohol if they were openly gay. So, they staged the sip-in here, and there was a lawsuit."

The sip-in and lawsuit, even before the Stonewall uprising around the corner, would help change New York law.

Now the city's landmarks preservation commission is hearing the case to make it a landmark too.

RELATED | One of New York City's oldest gay bars could become city landmark

"Designating the Julius' bar building as an individual landmark would officially recognize its centrality to the history of the city's gay rights movement and cement the moment of a crucial LGBTQ protest as its period of significance," said Kate Lemos McHale, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Director of Research.

The bar, which has been in business since the 1860s, is full of other neatly preserved history from woodwork with "cheers" in multiple languages likely from just after the prohibition, to a portrait in oil paint from the 1920's believed to be a mafia girlfriend.

"And some of the cash registers back there have been there since 1941. We still use them today," Gabriellini said.

Gabriellini has worked at the bar for almost 20 years and says more milestones in LGBTQ history have been celebrated in that time, like when marriage equality was passed.

"The bar was packed, and someone put on 'Going to the chapel and going to get married' and the entire bar started crying. And it was such a beautiful moment here," he said.

Gabriellini and regular customers are eager for Julius' to become the landmark it is to them.

"Just knowing that this place I love is famous for this wonderful important event, it made me feel kind of a sense of pride," longtime customer Rob Reynolds said. "All of us regulars who come here week after week for decades, we kind of feel a kinship and ownership."

The building itself is landmarked as historic, and Julius' is on the national registry of historic places. But this designation from the city would help preserve and protect the stories inside.

No date has been scheduled for a vote from the commission, but that's the next step.


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