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When did gay bars first open?

Gay bars have played an essential role in LGBTQ+ history, serving not just as a gathering place for socializing and dancing, but as a place of refuge and safety for people who have long been ostracized from mainstream society. LGBTQ+ bars and clubs have very deep roots; the earliest gay bars emerged in the 19th century in Europe, but their modern-day counterparts began taking shape in the United States during the early 20th century.

Early Gay Bars in the United States

Cafe Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans, dating back to 1933 and the end of Prohibition, claims to be the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States. However, while Cafe Lafitte might be the longest running gay bar in the U.S., it is not the first. The first gay bar is said to have opened in 1868 in New York City, although information on the establishment is limited. In the late 1800s, Paris had a few gay bars, but they were closed down for being indecent. In Germany during the 1920s, the legendary Eldorado nightclub in Berlin was home to a thriving LGBTQ+ subculture and played host to some of the most extravagant drag performances of all time.

The 1920s

The 1920s saw the emergence of a veritable ‘gay scene’ in larger American cities. It was during this period that some of the first known gay bars were established in places such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. These bars were private, unlicensed establishments that often had small back rooms for dancing and socializing. During this era, the LGBTQ+ community was beginning to coalesce and solidify around bars and clubs, leading to the formation of organizations like the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles and the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco, which were intended to promote social acceptance and unify the LGBTQ+ community.

The 1950s and 1960s

However, in the 1950s, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense, which led to increased police raids and closures of gay bars. During this period, bars that were known to be frequented by gay men operated behind closed doors and required a password for entry. The police were constantly on the lookout for these establishments, and many men were arrested and charged with indecent exposure, which could result in public shaming and losing one’s social standing.

Despite the increased scrutiny and the looming threat of persecution, the LGBTQ+ community continued to thrive and fight for their rights. During the 1960s, the gay liberation movement began to gain momentum in the United States, with the Stonewall Riots of 1969 serving as a pivotal moment in history. The Stonewall Inn was an unlicensed gay bar located in New York, which was raided by the police on June 28, 1969. The patrons of the bar, many of them transgender and people of color, fought back, sparking a riot that lasted for several days. This event is widely regarded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.


In conclusion, gay bars have been an essential part of LGBTQ+ history for well over a century. While the earliest gay bars were underground and unlicensed establishments, they represented a place of refuge and safety for a community that has been historically excluded from mainstream society. Although the gay liberation movement brought about significant change and progress, the importance of gay bars remains as strong as ever. These establishments continue to be a place where members of the LGBTQ+ community can come together, feel safe, and celebrate their identities.


What was the first gay bar in the United States?

The history of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States has come a long way, and bars and nightclubs have always been a significant part of the community. There have been several establishments throughout the country claiming to be the first gay bar in the United States. However, according to historical records, Cafe Lafitte in Exile on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, is considered to be the oldest gay bar that is still in operation today.

Cafe Lafitte in Exile opened in 1933, during the Great Depression, and quickly became a gathering place for gay men in New Orleans. Although the bar did not advertise as a gay bar, it quickly became the place to go for gay men to gather and socialize. During the 1940s and 1950s, the bar was a popular spot for sailors on leave from the nearby navy base.

The bar has a fascinating history, serving as a safe haven for many LGBTQ+ individuals throughout the years. The building it’s in was originally a blacksmith’s shop in the early 1700s, and it was later converted into a printing shop in the mid-1800s. During prohibition, it was a private speakeasy. In the 1970s, when the Stonewall Riots had sparked the LGBTQ+ rights movement in New York City, Cafe Lafitte in Exile was a supportive force for the movement’s fights for equality.

As the country moved towards more open acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, more gay bars opened throughout the United States. However, Cafe Lafitte in Exile remains an essential part of the LGBTQ+ history, not only in New Orleans but in the entire country.

While there have been debates about which establishment was the first gay bar in the United States, Cafe Lafitte in Exile on Bourbon Street in New Orleans holds the title for the oldest gay bar still in operation. With over 80 years of history serving as a gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community, Cafe Lafitte in Exile’s legacy is a testament to the hard-fought battles for the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

What is the history of Oscar Wilde bar NYC?

The Oscar Wilde bar in NYC is a historic and iconic establishment that has been around for many years. This bar, named after the famous writer Oscar Wilde, is known for its exquisite and vibrant ambiance, as well as its rich history. The bar is located in the NoMad area of the city, which has a history of being popular among writers, artists, and creatives.

One of the most interesting things about the Oscar Wilde bar is the building that it is located in. The building was once the headquarters for the Prohibition Enforcement Bureau, which was responsible for enforcing Prohibition laws during the 1920s and 1930s. It is believed that during that time, the building was occupied by the mob, who used one of the upper floors to spy on bureau activities.

The bar building was built in the late 1800s and is a beautiful example of Victorian-era architecture. The interior of the bar is equally impressive, with high ceilings, ornate moldings, and elegant chandeliers. The bar is also filled with antique and vintage pieces, such as wooden paneling, rich velvety textures, and plush seating which make it feel like a British library.

The Oscar Wilde bar is a tribute to the famous writer, who was known for his wit, charm, and extravagant personality. The bar is decorated with numerous portraits and photos of Wilde, as well as quotes from his literary works. Wilde was an influential figure in literature and culture during his time, and his legacy continues to inspire people today.

The Oscar Wilde bar NYC is a unique and historic establishment that has contributed to the culture and nightlife of the city for many years. From its Prohibition-era building to its extravagant decor, the bar is a testament to the fascinating and rich history of the NoMad area. For lovers of literature, history, and culture, the Oscar Wilde bar is a must-see destination in the city of New York.

Who owned many of the gay bars in New York City?

During the 1960s, a growing number of gay bars were opening up in New York City’s Greenwich Village, making it a hub of the city’s gay community. However, many of these bars were owned by the Genovese crime family, who were known for their involvement in illegal activities such as gambling, prostitution, and drugs.

The Genovese family had a history of using intimidation and violence to control various businesses in the city, and the gay bars were no exception. The mobsters would often extort money from bar owners, threatening to shut down their establishments if they didn’t pay up. Due to the illegal nature of their businesses, the bar owners were often reluctant to go to the police for help, leaving them at the mercy of the mobsters.

The Genovese family’s ownership of the gay bars in Greenwich Village had serious consequences for the LGBTQ+ community. The mafia’s involvement meant that they had a say in which bars stayed open and which ones were shut down, and they often made decisions based on how much money the bars were bringing in. This meant that many establishments that catered to LGBTQ+ patrons were forced to close down, leaving the community with fewer safe spaces to gather.

Despite the challenges posed by the Genovese family’s control of the gay bars, the LGBTQ+ community in New York City continued to grow in the 1960s and 70s. This period saw the rise of the modern gay rights movement, with activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera leading the charge for LGBTQ+ equality. The landmark Stonewall riots of 1969, which occurred in the heart of Greenwich Village, were a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and helped to galvanize the community.

The Genovese crime family owned many of the gay bars in New York City during the 1960s, exerting control over the LGBTQ+ community and contributing to the many challenges faced by its members. However, the resilience of the community and the efforts of activists for LGBTQ+ equality helped to pave the way for progress and a brighter future.