Via press release from New York Sen. Brad Hoylman:
“LGBT history is American history. An important part of that history is Julius’ Bar, one of the oldest gay bars in the city. By including Julius’ on the state and national historic registries, we’ll help ensure that future generations can be inspired by the events that occurred at Julius’ Bar and propelled the LGBT civil rights movement forward. I’m grateful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation for their work in nominating Julius’ Bar and preserving LGBT history throughout Greenwich Village.”
With the recent demise of Candle Bar on the Upper West Side, most believe Julius’ to be the oldest continually operating gay bar in New York City. But as noted by Hoylman, the bar has more historical significance than its age. Via Wikipedia:
On April 21, 1966 members of the New York Chapter of the Mattachine Society staged a “Sip-In” at the bar which was to change the legal landscape. Dick Leitsch, the society’s president, John Timmons and Craig Rodwell planned to draw attention to the practice by identifying themselves as homosexuals before ordering a drink in order to bring court scrutiny to the regulation. The three were going to read from Mattachine stationary “We are homosexuals. We are orderly, we intend to remain orderly, and we are asking for service.”
The three first targeted the Ukrainian-American Village Restaurant at St. Mark’s Place and Third Avenue in the East Village, Manhattan which had a sign, “If you are gay, please go away.” The three showed up after a New York Times reporter had asked a manager about the protest and the manager had closed the restaurant for the day. They then targeted a Howard Johnson’s and a bar called Waikiki where they were served in spite of the note with a bartender saying later, “How do I know they’re homosexual? They ain’t doing nothing homosexual.”
Frustrated, they then went to Julius, where a clergyman had been arrested a few days earlier for soliciting sex. A sign in the window read, “This is a raided premises.” The bartender initially started preparing them a drink but then put his hand over the glass which was photographed. The New York Times ran a headline the next day “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.”
The Mattachines then challenged the liquor rule in court and the courts ruled that gays had a right to peacefully assemble, which undercut the previous SLA contention that the presence of gay clientele automatically was grounds for charges of operating a “disorderly” premises. With this right established a new era of licensed, legally operating gay bars began. The bar now holds a monthly party called Mattachine.
NOTE: As you can see, Julius’ is spelled in the possessive, but I’ve never heard anybody pronounce it that way. It’s a great dive bar.