Julius’ bar was recognized with a plaque on the 56th anniversary of the historic “sip-in” demonstration that helped pave the way for acceptance of LGBTQ patrons at bars in New York City.
It was on April 21 of 1966 when members of the Mattachine Society walked into several bars, including Julius’, to ask for drinks in defiance of that era’s State Liquor Authority’s regulations preventing bartenders from serving LGBTQ individuals. In a now-famous photograph, a bartender is seem placing his hand over a glass to signal his refusal to serve the gay men standing before him.
Randy Wicker, who was with Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and John Timmons during the sip-in at Julius’ in 1966, was among the dozens of people who showed up to the historic LGBTQ bar on April 21 — more than five decades later — to mark the anniversary and acknowledge the establishment’s place in history. State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, Julius’ owner Helen Buford, Broadway star John Cameron Mitchell, and members of the Village Preservation and NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project were among others in attendance. Former Village Voice journalist Lucy Komisar, who watched the sip-in, also returned to the bar to see the plaque installation.
The plaque was installed on the exterior wall of the bar, which is located at 159 West 10th Street.
“These pre-Stonewall trailblazers challenged the idea that LGBTQ people were second-class citizens — they deserved safe and welcoming places to socialize and build community,” said Ken Lustbader of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which has played an instrumental role in preserving and outlining the queer history of New York City.
Andrew Berman, the executive director of Village Preservation, spoke of the rich history associated with the bar and called for it to be identified as a New York City landmark.
“Three years before Stonewall, when being gay was still considered a crime, these brave individuals protested for their right to gather free from harassment and discrimination,” Berman said. “We’re thrilled to be able to add this site as our 19th historic plaque in our neighborhoods, which have marked the homes of figures from James Baldwin to Jane Jacobs, Lorraine Hansberry to LeRoi Jones, Anais Nin to Alex Haley.”
Folks also flocked to Julius’ last year to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the sip-in.