Historic NYC Gay Bar Julius’ Granted Landmark Status
New York City’s ABC affiliate reports:
New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to designate Julius’ Bar in the Village as an individual landmark.
In the 1960s, the state liquor authority did not allow people to be served alcohol if they were openly gay. “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.
Advocates had long since hoped to see the bar on West 10th Street become a landmark, citing its pre-Stonewall significance to the city’s LGBTQ rights movement.
“As the country seems to be grappling with going backward in terms of acceptance and inclusion, I just want to say, bravo, New York, for bringing this one to the forefront,” Commissioner Michael Devonshire said.
The Arts and Crafts-style building that houses Julius’ was originally built in the early 1800s, as three separate buildings that were eventually combined, LPC Director of Research Kate Lemos McHale said at a public hearing in September. Julius’ bar itself opened years later, in 1930.
New York City’s CBS affiliate reports:
“The ‘Sip-In’ at Julius’ was a pivotal moment in our city and our nation’s LGBTQ+ history, and this designation today marks not only that moment but also Julius’ half-century as a home for New York City’s LGBTQ+ community,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.
“Honoring a location where New Yorkers were once denied service solely on account of their sexuality reinforces something that should already be clear: LGBTQ+ New Yorkers are welcome anywhere in our city.
“Let this designation serve as an important reminder to everyone that LGBTQ+ history is New York City history and that, like Julius’, the City of New York will always serve as a safe haven for LGBTQ+ people to be safe and feel safe.”
From the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project:
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.
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.
The iconic photo of the bartender putting his hand over the cocktail hangs over the bar at Julius’ and was recreated during a 2016 event marking the bar’s 50th anniversary and its addition to the National Registry of Historic Places. The new NYC landmark status gives the physical building protection from developers.