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

In New York City, bars have played a significant role in the city’s LGBTQ community, offering a sense of community and acceptance in a world that is often hostile to those who identify as LGBTQ+. However, what many people do not know is that during the middle of the 20th century, most of the gay bars in New York City were owned by the mafia and controlled by the Genovese crime family.

In the 1950s and 60s, homosexuality was considered a crime, and gay bars, also known as “Speakeasies,” operated in secrecy and were regularly raided by the police, resulting in many arrests. In response, bar owners and organized crime groups capitalized on the demand for “safe spaces” and started running the bars regularly. As a result, these criminal organizations could have a monopoly over the business and profits while also providing protection to their patrons.

The Genovese crime family controlled much of New York City’s gay bar business, and prominent members such as Genovese family boss Vito Genovese were known to have a particular interest in the control of gay bars. The mob controlled many of the popular gay bars in Greenwich Village, including the Stonewall Inn, which became the site of the Stonewall riots in 1969, a watershed moment in the LGBTQ rights movement.

The mafia’s control over gay bars was not a secret by any means. The lack of legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community created an environment in which gay bar owners were at the mercy of the mob. The mafia would often exert their authority and demand payment from bar owners, who were left with no choice but to comply. In exchange for their loyalty, the Genovese crime family promised the gay bar owners some protection from police harassment, extortion from other competing gangs and guarantee a stable business.

Bar owners had to navigate complicated rules to stay open and stay close with the mafia. It was often required to hire a doorman or bouncer, and potential patrons needed to be watched and monitored before entering. The police regularly conducted “shake-downs,” and the mafia would even survey the bars to ensure no laws were being broken.

Despite the inherent risks of being in business with the mafia, this partnership provided the only means for gay men and women to meet in public freely. Much of what we know of gay culture emerged from these bars: language, fashion, music, and other social norms – these bars were foundations of acceptance.

The end of the era of mafia control of gay bars came in the 1960s with the rise of LGBTQ activism and social change. The police became less tolerant of the mafia’s control of the gay bars, and the community began to fight back against police harassment and brutality. The Stonewall riots in 1969 are often considered to be the start of the gay rights movement, which challenged the idea that bars had to operate under mafia control.

In conclusion, mafia control of gay bars in New York City in the mid-20th century served as a double-edged sword. Although the mafia-controlled business provided a place for the LGBTQ+ community to gather and feel safe, it was at the expense of their feeble businesses and support by organized crime. The end of the mafia’s control over gay bars was a significant step in the ongoing struggle for equality for LGBTQ+ people in New York City and beyond.


What was the first gay bar in NYC?

The first gay bar in New York City was a speakeasy called The Slide, which opened in the 1920s. However, due to the illegality of homosexuality at the time, these types of bars operated underground and remained relatively unknown to the wider public.

The first public, well-known gay bar in New York City was Julius’, which opened in 1864 as a grocery store. In 1950, during a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the city, Julius’ became a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community. It was here that the famous “Sip-In” took place in 1966, in which LGBTQ+ activists staged a sit-in at the bar to challenge laws that prohibited the serving of alcohol to gay people. This sit-in was a pivotal moment in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and led to the affirmation that gay people had the right to be served alcohol in public establishments and cleared the way for future movements that would eventually lead to further rights being granted.

Julius’ remains open to this day and has been designated as a historic landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Today, New York City is home to a vibrant LGBTQ+ community, and many bars and establishments continue to serve as safe spaces for the community to gather, celebrate and express themselves.

What is Stonewall Inn famous for?

Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, is a bar that has become a symbol of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. It was in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, that the Stonewall uprising began inside the Stonewall Inn. During that period, LGBTQ+ rights were not recognized in the United States, and individuals who identified as LGBTQ+ faced discrimination, harassment, and persecution. In that era, police raids on gay bars were common, and it was also illegal for bars or establishments to serve alcohol to gay people.

The Stonewall Inn was one of the few bars in New York City that welcomed LGBTQ+ people, but even then, it was illegal, and the bar – which was owned by the Mafia – was frequently raided by the police. However, on June 28, 1969, patrons at Stonewall Inn decided to resist the police raid, and it sparked what later became known as the Stonewall uprising.

The events of that night started inside the Stonewall Inn and spread outside across the street in Christopher Park and on several surrounding streets. People who were sick of being discriminated against and harassed by the police banded together and pushed back against the officers. The police responded with violence, but the protestors were undeterred and refused to back down.

The Stonewall uprising sparked LGBTQ+ activism, and it is credited as a key turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. LGBTQ+ communities began organizing and advocating for their rights across the country, and within just a few years after the Stonewall uprising, the first gay pride parades were held.

Since then, Stonewall Inn has become a symbol of resistance, perseverance, and pride for the LGBTQ+ community. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000, and every year, on the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, millions of people gather around the world to celebrate Pride Month and honor the bravery and resilience of the people who fought back that night in 1969.

What is the oldest gay bar on the East Coast?

The East Coast of the United States is known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ community, which has a rich history of activism, advocacy, and cultural expression. One aspect of this community is the many gay bars and nightclubs that have served as important gathering places over the years. Among these venues, there is one establishment that stands out as the oldest, continually operating gay bar on the East Coast: Julius, located in New York City.

Julius is a historic landmark of the West Village neighborhood, on the corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place. The establishment dates back to 1867, when it opened as a grocery store and bar for local workers. Over the years, it gained a reputation as a popular spot for gay men, who were often subject to discrimination and harassment at other bars around the city.

In 1966, Julius made headlines as the site of a historic protest by members of the Mattachine Society, an early LGBTQ+ rights organization. The group staged a “sip-in,” during which they challenged the state’s liquor laws that barred openly gay people from being served alcohol. The demonstration helped to pave the way for greater acceptance and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community, and Julius became an iconic symbol of this struggle.

Today, Julius remains a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, offering a mix of classic cocktails, casual ambiance, and historical significance. Although it has undergone various renovations and updates over the years, the bar has retained much of its original charm and character, with wooden stools, vintage decor, and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

Julius is the oldest, continually operating gay bar on the East Coast, with a history and legacy that has helped to shape the LGBTQ+ community in New York City and beyond. As a testament to its endurance and resilience, it continues to serve as a beacon of hope and pride for all those who seek a place to call home.