GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan — New York institution Julius' Bar is asking for help keeping its doors open amid the coronavirus pandemic with a new GoFundMe. Like so many New York City bars and restaurants, pandemic-related closures and regulations have decimated business and made paying the bills difficult.
Now, with indoor dining still closed, the oldest continually operating gay bar in New York City is calling out for a hand.
"The bills are piling up, rent, utilities, insurance, etc. and there is no set date for indoor dining," said owner Helen Buford in a letter posted on the bar's GoFundMe page.
The iconic New York gay bar was the site of the "sip-in" of 1966, where gay patrons challenged rules that allowed bartenders to refuse service to homosexuals. It's considered one of the earliest pre-Stonewall public actions for LGBT rights, Buford said in her letter.
PIX11 profiled Julius' Bar last year during Pride.
In the 1960s, the bar had a practice of discriminating against openly gay people, and that discrimination is now documented in a photo on the wall at the bar.
“This was taken April 21st 1966, by Village Voice photographer Fred McDarrah," said Ken Lustbader, co-founder of the NYC LGBTQ Historic Society Project. "It captures when Dick Leitsch announced 'we are homosexuals, we want to be served' and the bartender put his hand over the glass and said 'nope I am sorry.'”
Many historians refer to the infamous Stonewall Riots as the start of the equal rights movement for the LGBTQ community, but the bold “sip-in” at Julius happened three years before Stonewall.
LGBTQ history tours always make a stop at the bar because of that important moment in history.
“People know a little about Stonewall , there was a riot, and then there was liberation, right? But they don’t know the steps before," said Jillian Courtney, an Urban Adventures Tour Guide. "That event was sort of a tipping point for the community."
Earlier this year, the iconic Stonewall Inn also reached out to patrons and supporters to help keeps its doors open.
The landmark bar where the gay rights movement began 51 years ago was "crippled" financially, it's owners said, with mounting bills and irreparable damage after the city's bar scene was put on PAUSE along with so much of the economy earlier this spring.
By the end of June, Stonewall had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the business afloat.
Julius' hopes for a similar outcome.
"Today," Buford said, "Julius' welcomes all people to share in the history and to preserve it's legacy."