We've known for many years that too many of our cherished gay bars and clubs are shuttering, falling victim to rising rents and the ubiquity of apps like Grindr and Scruff. After Orlando, we're even more aware of how fragile, and important, these spaces are. There's a walking tour in New York to commemorate beloved gay bars and clubs that have closed down. Here, we present our own digital tour of 12 Gotham sites that once housed laughter and tears, friendship and sex. Which are familiar?
Open for 29 years, the Roxy reportedly saw 53 DJs and 781 go-go boys over that time, not to mention “surprise” performances by Cher, Bette Midler, Beyoncé, and Madonna. While remembering the Roxy’s reign over Saturdays in the '90s and role in popularizing the “Chelsea Boy” look, we also discussed the massive Palladium nightclub and the iconic Limelight. Jeff Ferzoco, founder and designer of the OUTgoing Project, also explained his mapping project aiming to document the history of queer bars and how people could follow along on the digital map on the walk.
The Anvil (500 W. 14th St.)
Drag legend Ruby Rims shared stories here about one of New York’s most notorious private clubs (famous in the leather scene) and why it closed during the height of the AIDS crisis.
Crisco Disco (408 W. 15th St.)
Open approximately from 1975 to 1990, Crisco Disco had a prominent architectural feature: Its DJ booth was a giant Crisco can.
The Triangle building was constructed in 1859 and has been home to several spaces associated with the sex clubs of the Meatpacking District from the 1970s through the 2000s. Photographer Efrain Gonzalez shared some of his photographs from the scene.
Florent (69 Gansevoort St.) and Hell (59 Gansevoort St.)
Iconic as a center of the Meatpacking District nightlife scene, Florent signified a big cultural shift for the neighborhood. In the same vein, Hell (open roughly from 1997 to 2008) represented a new type of gay bar moving away from the darkened rooms from earlier in the 20th century: the lounge.
Along the way there were Inca (399 W. 12th St.) and the Ruins (158 Perry St.).
One half of the Bowery Boys podcast team, Gregory Young, spoke to the history of Christopher Street as arguably the main street of gay culture in the mid-to-late 20th century.
Along the way we saw Trilogy (135 Chrisopher St.), Green Hornet (115 Christoper St.), and the Five Oaks.
The (original) Duplex / Rose’s Turn (55 Grove St.)
An important genre of gay bar: the piano bar. Ruby Rims shared some performance stories about the original Duplex, which moved to its current location in 1989 in the old offices of The Village Voice. Joan Rivers and Woody Allen did stints here, and the site had played host a piano bar for nearly 56 years when Rose’s Turn closed in 2007. We also discussed piano bars like Reno Sweeney (126 W. 13th St.) and Helen’s Piano Lounge (169 Eighth Ave.).
Eve’s Hangout (W. 3rd St. & 129 MacDougal St.)
Opened in 1925, this tearoom was run by a Polish Jewish lesbian who went by the name “Eve Addams.” Poetry readings and pieces of theater were the norm here until the police raided the bar and arrested Eve for “obscenity” or possessing her own poetry, titled Lesbian Love.
Tenth of Always (82 W. Third St.)
Happy hour was beckoning, so we skipped the Vault at Pfaff’s (Bleeker & 653 Broadway) where Walt Whitman hung among the early American bohemians in the 1850s and reportedly wore women’s bloomers to the bar, and Tenth of Always (82 W. Third St.), an allegedly Mafia-owned spot known as an Andy Warhol haunt where he met his muse and pioneering trans actor Candy Darling.
Bon Soir (40 West Eighth St.)
Village Alliance executive director William Kelley conjured up the infamous night when a young Barbra Streisand made her debut at this swanky nightclub after winning a talent competition at the Lyon on West 12th Street and spoke to the history of West Eighth Street over the years.
Stonewall (51 Christopher St.)
Built originally as stables in the 1840s and known as a gay bar starting in the early 1960s, the current Stonewall sits at 53 Christopher Stm, but the original Stonewall Inn encompassed 51-53 Christopher St. It was the site of the famous Stonewall riots in 1969. The current iteration of the bar has been in operation since 1989.
Julius' (159 W 10th St.)
Finally, we ended at Julius' — still in busy operation, thank God — where Kyle (a.k.a. DJ Yestergay) played homo hits of the '60s, '70s, and '80s well into the night as the discussion continued.