Julius’ Bar, one of New York City’s oldest LGBT bars and the location of a crucial 1960s protest, has been officially recognized as a city landmark.
The bar was officially recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on December 6th, according to a news release from the New York City government.
The city called the bar “one of the city’s most significant sites of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) history” in the news release.
Julius’ was the site of the 1966 “Sip-in,” a protest against homophobic discrimination – although at the time, the bar wasn’t an explicitly LGBT space. Four men named Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, John Timmons, and Randy Wicker staged the event to protest the persecution of gay men for drinking in public, according to the National Park Service. Bars and restaurants could be raided for “disorderly” conduct, which included men flirting and kissing, says the service. So bars often refused to serve clients who they knew were gay.
At Julius’, the men announced they were gay – and the bartender refused to serve them, saying it was illegal. The men successfully brought a court case challenging that interpretation of the law. And in 1967, “the courts ruled that indecent behavior had to be more than same-sex ‘cruising’” kissing or touching,” says the National Park Service. “Gays could legally drink in a bar.”
Julius’, located in New York City’s West Village, is a crucial piece of the city’s history: The bar has been open since the 1860s, according to the National Park Service. And today, it openly describes itself as a gay bar on its social media.
“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,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in the city news release. “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.”
Council member Erik Botcher thanked the activists who pushed for the landmark designation in the release.
“As a gay man who enjoys countless freedoms that were unimaginable in their time, I owe enormous debt to the activists who made Julius’ Bar the site of their protest.” Bottcher said in the release. “Landmarks should tell the history of all New Yorkers, including those from marginalized communities.”
And the landmark status will help ensure the historical site is preserved for decades.
“The Commission’s designation of the Julius’ Bar Building today recognizes and protects the site of the 1966 ‘Sip-In,’ an important 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,” said Sarah Carroll, the landmarks preservation commission chair, in the release.
“This building represents that history and has remained an important place to commemorate it,” she went on.