overview

While their significance is often underestimated or dismissed by heterosexual society, bars and other establishments played a pivotal role throughout the 20th century — but particularly in the pre-Stonewall era — as centers for LGBT activism and community.

These spaces, whether always gay friendly or only during certain times of the day or week, gave LGBT people the freedom to be themselves in a way they usually could not be in their personal or professional lives.

This curated collection largely reflects the bar and nightlife scene of downtown Manhattan; as we research more sites we encourage you to reach out to us with suggestions in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

Header Photo
Truman Capote (center) with Liza Minnelli and Steve Rubell at Studio 54 in an undated photo. Photographer and source unknown.

Featured Historic Sites ( 23 )

A
901 Father Capodanno Boulevard

This commercial building was home to the Beach Haven, Staten Island’s sole lesbian bar in the 1970s and early 1980s. Popular with women’s softball teams, it was the first official... Learn More

B
78-11 Roosevelt Avenue

Owned since 1989 by business and personal partners Eddie Valentin and Casimiro Villa, Friend’s Tavern (or Friend’s) in Jackson Heights is known as the oldest active gay bar in Queens.... Learn More

C
438 Hudson Street

Currently occupied by Henrietta Hudson, one of the city’s three remaining lesbian bars, this space was formerly known as Cubby Hole, from 1983 to 1990. Activist and performer Stormé DeLarverie... Learn More

D
281 West 12th Street

After opening DT’s Fat Cat here in 1987, bar owner Tanya Saunders renamed it Cubbyhole in 1994 and envisioned it as an inclusive “neighborhood fusion bar.” Cubbyhole, which still operates... Learn More

E
432 West 14th Street

This former market building in the Meatpacking District was a popular 1990s nightlife venue for several weekly parties and performances, including Jackie 60, Clit Club, and Martha @ Mother. In... Learn More

F
149 West 14th Street

Kooky’s, also known as Kooky’s Cocktail Lounge, was a lesbian bar that operated from 1965 to 1973. After the Stonewall uprising of June 1969, Kooky’s was the site of lesbian-led... Learn More

G
77-02 Broadway

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... Learn More

H
269 East Houston Street

In 1996, Meow Mix opened as a sex-positive lesbian club known for its live music, though it is best remembered for its appearance in the 1997 film Chasing Amy. It was... Learn More

I
70 Beach Street

Located in the former Liberty Theatre, Park Villa II (later On Stage), was a popular dance club during the 1980s and early 1990s. Between 1984 and 1991, Lambda Associates, the... Learn More

J
117 MacDougal Street

The Swing Rendezvous was a jazz club and lesbian bar that was open from 1938 to 1965. Among the bar’s notable patrons were writer and activist Audre Lorde and Kitty... Learn More

K
105 Second Avenue

Referred to as the “Vatican of Disco,” The Saint was a gay, members-only club located in the East Village that operated between September 1980 and May 1988. With its huge... Learn More

L
56 Greenwich Avenue

In the early hours of Saturday morning April 28, 1990, a homemade bomb exploded at Uncle Charlie’s bar in Greenwich Village that resulted in an immediate protest by the recently... Learn More

M
129 Macdougal Street

Eve Adams, the name adopted by a Polish-Jewish lesbian émigré, operated a popular gay and lesbian tearoom near Washington Square in Greenwich Village from 1925 to 1926. It closed when... Learn More

N
116 7th Avenue South

Stewart’s Cafeteria, later the Life Cafeteria, was located in this Greenwich Village building in the 1930s and attracted a bohemian and gay and lesbian following. The large plate glass windows... Learn More

O
130 West 3rd Street

Tony Pastor’s Downtown, in business from 1939 to 1967, was a mob-backed club with a mixed clientele but popular with lesbians. The New York State Liquor Authority revoked its liquor... Learn More

P
3 Hyatt Street

From at least the late 1950s to the late 1970s, Staten Island’s popular Mayfair Bar & Grill catered to gay patrons. It was one of a few gay and lesbian... Learn More

Q
1084 Bergen Street

In 1962, openly gay African-American entrepreneur Harold “Mackie” Harris purchased the Starlite Lounge and established it as an LGBT-inclusive bar. Before being forced to close in 2010 after the building... Learn More

R
159 West 10th Street

On April 21, 1966, a “Sip-In” was organized by members of the Mattachine Society, one of the country’s earliest gay rights organizations, to challenge the State Liquor Authority’s discriminatory policy... Learn More

S
82 West 3rd Street

Tenth of Always operated here from around 1968 to 1972 and was where artist Andy Warhol met Candy Darling, a trans woman who would become a Warhol Superstar. Bonnie &... Learn More

T
394-395 West Street

The Ramrod on the Hudson River waterfront was one of New York’s most popular leather bars in the 1970s. It was the site of one of Greenwich Village’s most notoriously... Learn More

U
254 West 54th Street

In 1977, Studio 54 opened and became one of the world’s most famous discos with a fusion of gay, bisexual, and straight patrons. Owners Steven Rubell and Ian Schrager modeled... Learn More

V
84 King Street

Between 1977 and 1987, the Paradise Garage was one of the most important and influential clubs in New York City with a devoted patronage comprised of sexual and ethnic minorities... Learn More

W
63-14 Roosevelt Avenue

From the early 1990s until its closure at the end of 2018, the Bum Bum Bar (pronounced “boom boom”) catered to a predominately Latina lesbian clientele in Queens. Located under... Learn More

Other Curated Themes

7 Sites

Transgender History

25 Sites

Gay-Owned Businesses

17 Sites

Communities of Color

24 Sites

Activism Outside Manhattan

18 Sites

Literary New York

13 Sites

Downtown Arts Scene

21 Sites

City of Immigrants

17 Sites

1970s Lesbian Activism & Community

7 Sites

The Bronx

8 Sites

Brooklyn Heights

7 Sites

Jackson Heights

12 Sites

Staten Island

10 Sites

Why We March

15 Sites

Village Pride Tour

20 Sites

Gay Activists Alliance

13 Sites

The Harlem Renaissance

12 Sites

Jewish New York

18 Sites

Pre-20th Century History

13 Sites

Activism Before Stonewall

22 Sites

Homophobia & Transphobia

43 Sites

Broadway Theater District

11 Sites

Influential Black New Yorkers

13 Sites

Early Community Centers

13 Sites

Lesbian Life Before Stonewall

11 Sites

The AIDS Crisis

25 Sites

LGBT-Named Public Schools

15 Sites

Art & Architecture

10 Sites

National Register Listings

21 Sites

Spotlight on the Theater