The Gill Foundation, an organization the funds LGBTQ+ rights efforts and preserves queer history, has announced it will match contributions up to $25,000 to protect New York City’s Julius’ Bar, the oldest continuously operated queer bar in the city. The bar is under threat of closure due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
The bar's owner Helen Buford, launched a GoFundMe campaign in January, with the goal of raising $200,000. So far it has raised over $110,000 from that effort. The Gill Foundation previously donated $20,000 to Julius’ Bar in 2020.
The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on bars and clubs across the country, but the specter of closures is of particular concern in the LGBTQ+ community, which is seeing historic institutions threated. Losing these queer spaces that have played a significant role in the LGBTQ+ rights movement would be a tragedy.
"COVID-19 has devastated businesses big and small, including many in the LGBTQ community," said Scott Miller and Tim Gill, co-chairs of the Gill Foundation in a written statement. "It's critical that we preserve and protect LGBTQ history and the places that have shaped the equality movement. As the oldest continuously operated LGBTQ bar in New York City, Julius' has served as an important gathering place for LGBTQ advocates, leaders, and everyday people looking for a safe place to be themselves. The famed 'Sip-In' at Julius' in 1966 was instrumental in the long march toward equality and is part of the reason why the bar is on the National Register of Historic Places. We're honored to give back to an institution that's given our community so much and hope this contribution will ensure Julius' continues to be an iconic home to LGBTQ equality for many years to come."
In 1966 when Dick Leitsch and other members of the Mattachine Society, an early LGBTQ+ rights organization, staged the Sip-In at Julius’ bar in the Village, they did so to challenge laws that allowed person could be refused service in a bar simply for being gay, and the fact that queer patrons' mere presence could lead to a bar’s closure by the State Liquor Authority. The pre-Stonewall protest generated publicity and drew attention to the legal discrimination. It helped lead to the boon of gay bars and establishment of bars as central social spaces for LGTBQ+ people.
“Julius’ is proud to be at the center of so much history for the LGBTQ community in NYC and beyond,” said Buford, the bar's current owner. “This generous match will help us keep our doors open and allow us to focus on getting our staff back to work so we can continue serving the LGBTQ community. We’re beyond grateful.”
The Gill Foundation has a long record of preserving and protecting LGBTQ history. In June 2020, the foundation made a similar contribution to help save the iconic Stonewall Inn, which was also on the brink of closure due to the pandemic.
Make a donation through the bar's GoFundMe site here to have it count toward the matching grant. The money from the foundation will be earmarked for rent and utilities.