The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a devastating blow to New York City’s bars and restaurants, including some iconic LGBTQ institutions.
Like its Greenwich Village neighbor, the Stonewall Inn, the historic Julius’ Bar has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover mounting bills and rent while the staff waits for indoor dining to resume in NYC.
“I’m reaching out to you because we need your help in saving our beloved Julius Bar for posterity and to ensure that history stays alive,” Julius’ owner, Helen Buford, wrote on the fundraiser page. “Today indoor dining was postponed in NYC. The bills are piling up, rent, utilities, insurance, etc. and there is no set date for indoor dining.”
As NewNowNext previously reported, Julius’ opened in 1867 and was already popular with gay patrons by the 1950s—even though homosexuals were technically banned from drinking in bars.
On April 21, 1966, three years before the Stonewall Uprising, three gay men decided to protest the ban by having a “sip-in” at Julius’. “We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service,” they declared to the bartender.
John Timmons, Craig Rodwell, and Dick Leitsch—all members of the early gay rights group the Mattachine Society—were refused service on the grounds that having gay men in the bar would make it a “disorderly premise.” The bartender actually started preparing them a drink but put his hand over the glass, a moment which was captured by a New York Times photographer.
After the “sip-in,” the men challenged the State Liquor Association, claiming that denying service to homosexuals was discriminatory. They won, and the law was struck from the books. It was a significant early victory for the gay rights movement.
In addition to Julius’ being a popular watering hole for New Yorkers, it has also been featured on the big and small screens in movies and TV series like Can You Ever Forgive Me?, The Boys in the Band, and Pose.
In 2016, Julius’ was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“Today Julius’ welcomes all people to share in the history and to preserve its legacy,” Buford added on the bar’s fundraiser page. “The staff and I are eager to serve you safely once again but we need your help.”