Julius' in Manhattan is known for its historical 'sip-in' which paved the way for queer bar culture.
A sense of having a community and feeling supported is extremely important for queer people. In modern times, gay clubs are one of these safe spaces that provide that. In order to preserve these spaces, New York City's oldest gay bar, Julius' in Manhattan, has been declared a landmark. On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) announced the designation, calling the popular West Village watering spot "one of the city's most significant landmarks" of LGBTQIA+ history, reports PEOPLE.
Today, the Commission designated @JULIUSBARNYC at 159 W 10th St an individual landmark. This designation highlights Julius’ cultural significance for its role in pre-Stonewall LGBTQ+ activism as the site of the 1966 ”Sip-In” protest by the Mattachine Society of NY. #NYCLandmarks pic.twitter.com/S8Z9Fx36lP— NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (@nyclandmarks) December 6, 2022
Julius' was the location of a "sip-in" in 1966, when three activists protested the closing of queer establishments. New York Mayor Eric Adams called the ceremony "a pivotal moment in our city and our nation's LGBTQ+ history," according to an LPC press statement. Adams said, "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."
Julius' is located on West 10th Street in the Greenwich Village Historic District, near the Stonewall Inn, which is also a landmark, according to the LPC. The 1966 "sip-in" occurred three years before the Stonewall riots, which are often seen as the beginning of the LGBTQIA+ movement. The "sip-in" is also seen as a watershed moment in the community's struggle for rights and equality.
Julius’ Bar, the oldest gay bar in NYC and the site of the 1966 ‘Sip In,’ an early act of civil disobedience that challenged discriminatory liquor laws, has been LANDMARKED by @nyclandmarks! This is so timely. Let us have the same fortitude & bravery that our forbears had then. pic.twitter.com/qy8F9kKJrf— NYC Council Member Erik Bottcher (@ebottcher) December 7, 2022
According to the website of this historic bar, on April 21, 1966, members of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization, planned the "sip-in." Their goal was to challenge New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) laws that prohibited establishments from serving alcohol to known or suspected gay men or lesbians because their presence was deemed disruptive. Since they restricted the freedom to assembly, the SLA rules were one of the principal official methods of persecution against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell and John Timmons, accompanied by several reporters, went to several bars and announced they were "homosexuals" and demanded to be served. They were refused at all of these places, but the specific refusal at Julius’ attracted attention and was published in the New York Times and the Village Voice. The State Liquor Authority's and the newly strengthened New York City Commission on Human Rights' reaction resulted in a policy change and the emergence of a more open queer bar culture.
Julius’ Bar in the West Village is the oldest Gay Bar in the city and it was finally given landmark status…also one of the best burgers in town pic.twitter.com/ZMr8gocVLg— Wu-Tang is for the Children (@WUTangKids) December 8, 2022
Hence, the bar has been a significant part of queer history and its position as a landmark "highlights Julius’ cultural significance for its role in pre-Stonewall LGBTQ+ activism." Following the voting during the virtual hearing on Tuesday, Commissioner Wellington Chen stated that Julius' historic designation was "long overdue." He said, "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."
According to Andrew Dolkart, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the non-profit is "thrilled" after the decision. One of the LPC's early aims, as stated by the group, was to have the property included on the National Register of Historic Places. Dolkart said in a statement, "We applaud the Landmarks Commission for its commitment to recognizing sites of historic significance to LGBT history and look forward to working with the Commission on future designations."