Julius’ Bar, one of New York’s oldest LGBT bars and the site of a pivotal 1960s protest, has been officially recognized as a city landmark.
The bar was officially recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on Dec. 6, according to a New York City government press release.
The city called the bar “one of the most significant sites in the city’s LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) history” in the press release.
Julius’ was the site of the 1966 ‘Sip-in’, a protest against homophobic discrimination – although at the time the bar was not an explicitly LGBT space. Four men named Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, John Timmons and Randy Wicker organized the event to protest the persecution of gay people for drinking in public, according to the National Park Service. Bars and restaurants could be raided for “disorderly” conduct, including men flirting and kissing, the service says. Bars therefore often refused to serve customers they knew to be homosexual.
At Julius, the men announced they were gay – and the bartender refused to serve them, saying it was illegal. The men successfully filed a lawsuit challenging this interpretation of the law. And in 1967, “courts ruled that indecent behavior must be more than same-sex kissing or touching,” the National Park Service said. “Gays could legally drink in a bar.”
Julius’, located in New York’s West Village, is a crucial part of the city’s history: the bar has been open since the 1860s, according to the National Park Service. And today, he openly describes himself as a gay bar on his social media.
“The ‘Sip-In’ at Julius was a pivotal moment in our city and in our country’s LGBTQ+ history, and this designation today marks not only that moment, but also Julius’ half-century as a home of New York’s LGBTQ+ community,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in the city’s press release. “Honoring a place where New Yorkers have been denied service solely because of their sexuality reinforces something that should already be clear: LGBTQ+ New Yorkers are welcome everywhere in our city.”
Council member Erik Botcher thanked activists who lobbied for the historic designation in the statement.
“As a gay man enjoying countless freedoms unimaginable in their time, I owe a huge debt to the activists who made Julius’ Bar their venue for their protest.” Bottcher said in the statement. “Monuments should tell the story of all New Yorkers, including those in marginalized communities.”
And landmark status will help ensure the preservation of the historic site for decades to come.
“The Commission’s designation of the Julius’ Bar Building today recognizes and protects the site of the 1966 ‘Sip-In’, a significant early protest against the persecution of LGBTQ+ people that drew vital attention to unjust laws and practices. and paved the way for future milestones in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights,” Sarah Carroll, chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said in the statement.
“This building represents that history and has remained an important place to commemorate it,” she continued.