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Julius', NYC's Oldest Gay Bar, Launches GoFundMe to Avoid Closure


The site of the 1966 "sip-in" organized by the Mattachine Society is in peril.

The oldest surviving gay bar in New York City is asking for the LGBTQ+ community's help in staying afloat.

Julius' launched a GoFundMe in March following the shuttering of brick-and-mortar businesses due to the health pandemic. As of the time of this article's publishing, it had raised $25,000 of a $50,000 goal.

This need has become more pressing, however, as Julius' had to delay reopening after New York postponed indoor dining to avoid another surge of the novel coronavirus. The city has only recently flattened the curve after becoming a global hot spot.

"Although, we followed the rules, we didn't want to chance a fine or our license taken away. We are closed till phase 3 when we will be able to have you indoors at a limited capacity," read a June 24 update from Helen Buford, who is organizing the fundraiser on behalf of the bar and staff.

Julius' was the site of one most important events in LGBTQ+ history. The bar, which began attracting queer customers in the 1950s, was the site of a 1966 "sip-in" organized by the Mattachine Society.

(Related: The Story of Julius', the Famed Gay Bar in Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

That year, members protested regulations from the New York State Liquor Authority banning service to "suspected" queer people. A policy change resulting from this protest birthed a new generation of gay bars that no longer had to be underground. As a result of this history, Julius' was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

Its significance lives on in the culture. A version of this event -- one of the first acts of civil disobedience in the modern LGBTQ rights movement -- was depicted in the 1995 Stonewall film, which used the setting of the more famous gay bar in its title.

Julius' was also the setting of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a 2018 film starring Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, an author (and forger) who frequented the bar. Jeff Whitty, the cowriter of the script, discussed how the West Village bar represented a hopeful vision of inclusivity in an interview with The Advocate.

"You'll go into Julius' and it's not just going to be gay men, or even gay men and lesbians, but this wonderful cross section of people, of humanity," he said. "And that, to me, is the future."

Support Julius' at GoFundMe.

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