6/24/08

Julius Bar - Seen It All And Still Around

It sucks to admit that I never went to Julius in the almost 25 years I've lived here.  I passed it a million times, and I may have gone once as a smug young buck for a goof - probably to make fun of the old timers sipping classic cocktails mixed by a crusty heavy-handed bartender.   But as someone who loves history, I only slighted myself by not going here before last week.  Funny, now that I am 25 years older, I was pretty comfortable although one patron joked I could still be classified as 'chicken' here which is particularly hysterical since most people refer to me as a tough old bird but that's for another time.  Julius is a living museum to not only gay history, but to Village history, and I was enthralled by the people I met during the several hours my friend and I spent there.  These kind and funny regulars were loaded with history about the bar, the patrons, neighborhood gossip, and they revealed the best news of all -- Julius will be around for a few more years as the recent threat of eviction has been settled, for now.  Jeremiah's Vanishing New York has more history and pictures here.

The day a friend and I went was a beautiful, warm day and the regulars were buzzing about the Village Voice article that had just come out about how a "Sip-In" demonstration in 1966 - 3 years before the Stonewall riots -  was actually the first organized protest for gay rights.   Existing laws allowed bars to deny serving known homosexuals, so a group of well-dressed men came in the bar, identified themselves as gay, and demanded to be served.   The refusal of service would prompt them to sue the state for discrimination and the case would start the opening shot in equal rights for gays - at least in the bars.   Please read the Voice article for the details as it's fascinating.  Also, on the day I was there, I was thrilled to observe a steady flow of old school street freaks either passing through or by the bar and it comforted me to know that there are a few originals left in the West Village - and they're welcome in Julius like everybody else is.  The intersection of 10th Street and Waverly has not been totally hijacked by SATC girls, but a few packs did stroll by with Forever 21 bags. 

So, in honor of Gay Pride Week or to just honor a Village survivor, visit Julius.  You'll be welcomed even you sleep with Cameroon mountain goats - no one will judge.  Have a drink and show your respect to this place.  It's the exact opposite of what New York has become.  It's old, dusty, unpretentious, the bartenders can be cranky/funny, the music is on a jukebox, people aren't fashionable, drinks are cheap, the burgers are amazing (as good or better than Corner Bistro),  and it's friendly - and not one single person was pecking at a Blackberry or any other device.   Don't miss the restrooms with classic old album covers from the 60's and 70's - I totally had a flashback.   Julius also serves inexpensive homemade lasagna and other homey meals (whatever the cook feels like making) on Saturdays and Sundays which everyone in the bar raved about.   They told me it was an "insider's secret" so I felt honored to be in the know.   As the oldest gay bar - or any bar - in the city, this place deserves to be honored.   And in the times we're living in now, you just never know how long it will last.   Click here for more information, reader reviews, and pictures. 

Julius
West 10th and Waverly Place

Note:  Just got back from another loverly Tuesday night of cocktails and cheeseburgers -- and it was  fun & delish.  Or rather, it was absolutely horrible... Do NOT go there under any circumstances.  I don't want you taking up my stool space. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My friend and I took your advice and are pleased to report you were totally correct. A bunch of great people - and the burgers, amazing! Onion rings, too.
thanks
dan and dan

Anonymous said...

This bar was actually owned by my Grandfather, Julius Frankel. I never met my grandfather but heard many stories about the place from my father who worked there for my grandfather. Chronologically, I'm not sure when it was but if I can muster a guess it would have been before WWII... 1930s.

Lamppost Tom said...

Could the person who mentioned Julius Frankel as a one-time owner of Julius please contact me at 212-229-0202 or ellisbook@aol.com? I am the self-described unofficial historian of Julius' and have never come across his name.

Thank you.

Tom Bernardin aka "Lamppost Tom"