One of NYC’s oldest gay bars, the Julius Bar is on its way to becoming a city landmark

WESTDORF, Manhattan — One of New York’s oldest gay bars, which played a pivotal role in promoting gay rights for New Yorkers, is on track to achieve landmark status.

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

“In 1966 we had something like the sip-in,” said Julius’ bar manager Nick Gabriellini. “Where the state Alcohol Board wouldn’t serve alcohol to homosexuals if they were openly gay. So here they staged the sip-in and there was a lawsuit.”

The indictment and litigation, even before the Stonewall riot happened around the corner, would help change New York law.

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

RELATED | One of the oldest gay bars in New York City could become a city landmark

“The designation of the Julius Bar building as an individual landmark would officially recognize its pivotal place in the history of the city’s gay rights movement and cement the moment of a pivotal LGBTQ protest as its momentous time,” said Kate Lemos McHale, New York City Landmarks research director for the Preservation Commission .

The bar, which has been in operation since the 1860s, is full of other well-preserved stories, from woodwork with “Cheers” in several languages, probably just after Prohibition, to a 1920s oil paint portrait of the assumed to be a mafia girlfriend.

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

Gabriellini has been working at the bar for almost 20 years and says that time has seen other milestones in LGBTQ history celebrated, such as when marriage equality was passed.

“The bar was full and someone rang up ‘Go to the chapel and get married’ and the whole bar started crying. And it was such a beautiful moment here,” he said.

Gabriellini and regular customers are excited for Julius’ to become the landmark it is for them.

“Just knowing that this place I love is famous for this wonderful important event kind of made me proud,” said longtime customer Rob Reynolds. “All of us regulars who have been coming here week in and week out for decades, we somehow feel connected and belonging.”

The building itself is listed as a historic monument and Julius’s is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But this designation of the city would help preserve and protect the stories inside.

No date is set for a Commission vote, but that is the next step.


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Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All rights reserved. One of NYC’s oldest gay bars, the Julius Bar is on its way to becoming a city landmark

Laura Coffey

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