prior to the Love Boat, the gay bar Our Place operated here
The Love Boat was a popular gay Latino bar and dance space in Elmhurst, situated on the border of Jackson Heights.
Drawing crowds of gay men with roots from countries throughout Latin America, the bar was located in this corner building from c. 1985 to at least 1995 and may have been one of the earliest gay bars in the neighborhood to attract a predominantly Latino clientele.
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The ground floor of the building at the southeast corner of 77th Street and Broadway in Elmhurst was the location of at least two gay bars. The first known bar was Our Place, which was listed in a November 1980 issue of Knight Life, a weekly gay magazine based in nearby Jackson Heights. By c. 1985 through at least 1995, the Love Boat bar operated here. The exterior of the building during that time featured nautical elements, including a circular life preserver above the front door and small, porthole-like windows, which were created by bricking in the existing window openings.
The Love Boat’s lively dance scene attracted a diverse group of Latinos, which Andrés Duque, a Colombian-born LGBT rights activist and journalist who moved to Jackson Heights in 1993, said was part of its appeal and made it unique among the neighborhood’s gay bars. Its clientele included many immigrants from the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations, Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. Patrons tended to mingle and dance with those from their native countries, with each group typically dancing at different times depending on the style of music, which changed throughout the evening. One former patron recalls that a stage was pulled down from the wall and made the space even smaller so that people who had to cram up against the walls to fit; the stage was mostly used for drag shows featuring Latino artists. In the 1990s (and perhaps earlier), the Love Boat was owned by a woman who was possibly Colombian, as were many owners of local gay bars then. Her daughter monitored the door.
Similar to other thriving Latino nightlife spots on and around nearby Roosevelt Avenue, the Love Boat provided gay and bisexual Latino men with an important social and cruising space. This was particularly true for immigrants who were new to the city, far from their families and cultural traditions, and/or felt out of place in trendier, English-speaking gay bars in Manhattan. Friend’s Tavern on Roosevelt Avenue is said to be the oldest operating gay Latino bar in Queens (as well as the borough’s oldest operating gay bar in general), and Bum Bum Bar, also on Roosevelt Avenue, was the borough’s oldest operating lesbian Latina bar before closing in late 2018.
The Love Boat also helped fundraise for the inaugural Queens Pride Parade in 1993 and sponsored a block (37th Avenue between 78th and 79th streets) of the parade route. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, Colombian-born activist Guillermo Vasquez spent many evenings educating the community about HIV/AIDS, most often at this bar. In his memory, a street sign was installed on the same corner as the former bar in 2013.
Entry by Amanda Davis, project manager (September 2018; last revised October 2021).
NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.
- Architect or Builder: Unknown
- Year Built: c. 1928
Andrés Duque, phone call with Amanda Davis for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, June 30, 2018.
Bob Damron, Bob Damron’s 1990 Address Book (San Francisco: Bob Damron Enterprises, 1990).
Bruno Gmunder, Spartacus, 1993-1994: International Gay Guide, 1993.
Esther Wang, “From Orlando to NYC, Queer Latino Immigrants Ask ‘What’s Next?’,” BuzzFeed News, June 22, 2016, bzfd.it/2KkeO8N.
Gayellow Pages: New York/New Jersey, Issue 29 (Renaissance House, 1994).
Knight Life, November 27, 1980, in the Daniel Dromm Papers, The LGBTQ Collection, LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, LaGuardia Community College.
Instagram user @dr.juan_david, comment on NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project (@nyclgbtsites) Instagram post, October 20, 2021, bit.ly/3wkisYT.
Richard Shpuntoff, e-mails to Amanda Davis for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, June 2018.
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