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A look at Julius: The oldest, continually operating gay bar in New York City

Posted at 10:25 PM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 22:26:13-04

GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan — A small dive bar on the corner of West 10th street and Waverly Place in Greenwich Village is the oldest, continually operating gay bar in New York City.

The bar, Julius, has been open for more than a century and is still very popular.

“I feel like it’s community-based. I feel like it’s relaxed. I feel like it is inclusive. I feel like there is a level of diversity both age and race and different sexuality," said Damani Varnado or Williamsburg.

What this bar is today, for many in LGBTQ community, is very different from what it once was.

Julius was once a place of oppression for homosexual men and woman. In the 1960s the bar had a practice of discriminating against openly gay people and the discrimination was documented in a photo on the wall at the bar.

“This was taken April 21st 1966, by Village Voice photographer Fred McDarrah," said Ken Lustbader, co-founder of the NYC LGBTQ Historic Society Project. "It captures when Dick Leitsch announced 'we are homosexuals, we want to be served' and the bartender put his hand over the glass and said 'nope I am sorry.'”

Many historians refer to the infamous Stonewall Riots as the start of the equal rights movement for the LGBTQ community, but the bold “sip-in” at Julius happened three years before Stonewall.

LGBTQ history tours always make a stop at the bar because of that important moment in history.

“People know a little about Stonewall , there was a riot—-and then there was liberation, right? But they don’t know the steps before," said Jillian Courtney, an Urban Adventures Tour Guide. "That event was sort of a tipping point for the community."=

From sit-ins at Julius in 1966 to Stonewall in 1969 to present day, equal rights for those in the LGBTQ community have come a long way. Pride month celebrates the history made and the history yet to be made for people in the LGBTQ community.

Julius is one of several historic sites in New York City that are significant to the gay right movement. Recently, the NYC LGBTQ Historic Society Project created an app called 'Vamonde' that has a map of other historic sites. The app also include photos and details of each site's contribution in the gay rights movement.

For more information on Julius, click here.