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One of NYC’s oldest gay bars is fundraising to stay open

Julius' has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 as bars still can't open indoors.

Written by
Bao Ong

Gay bars across New York City have been especially hard hit during the current crisis. One of the city’s only Black-owned LGBTQ+ bars, Alibi Lounge, needed donors to swoop in at the last minute to stay afloat. The divey 9th Avenue Saloon in Hell’s Kitchen appears to have shuttered for good. At Time Out, we’ve written about how the city’s remaining lesbian bars are also in danger.

Now Julius’—one of the city’s oldest gay bars—is fighting to stay in business and relying on a GoFundMe campaign as the city forces restaurants and bars to keep indoors spaces off limits. 

While the landmark watering hole isn’t as well known as Stonewall, located in the Village just around the corner, or as trendy as some of the newer gay bars across the city, it’s been a go-to destination for the LGBTQ+ community. It has a low-key, neighborhood appeal, and in recent years, it’s become increasingly popular with a younger clientele—perhaps partly out of kitsch but also for the everyone-is-welcomed vibe. The drinks are cheap, and you could also order greasy burgers on site.

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While restaurants have pivoted to outdoor dining, it’s more difficult for bars, which have only been able to rely on to-go cocktails while also enforcing social-distancing rules (the very opposite of what we go to bars for in the first place). Julius’s GoFundMe campaign actually started a few months ago to raise $50,000, but it’s only recently that it’s picked up steam with no start date for bars to reopen.

On the GoFundMe page, Julius’s owner Helen Buford wrote: “I’m reaching out to you because we need your help in saving our beloved Julius Bar for posterity and to ensure that history stays alive. Today indoor dining was postponed in NYC. The bills are piling up, rent, utilities, insurance, etc. and there is no set date for indoor dining.”

Several years before the infamous uprising at Stonewall, Julius’ was the site of a “sip-in.” Three gay men who members of the Mattachine Society, a gay rights group, modeled their protest by the famous sit-ins of the era in a response to government officials shutting down bars catering to the LGBTQ+ community.

While Julius’ future is uncertain, New York has also welcomed new gay bars in recent weeks. Lambda Lounge, a city’s second Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar, and Good Judy just opened in Brooklyn.

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