Though McSorley’s Ale House, which opened in 1854, is New York’s oldest continuously operating public house, Julius’s (circa 1870) holds two equally auspicious titles: oldest bar in the West Village and New York’s oldest gay bar. These alone qualify this friendly neighborhood tavern as a must-see for tourists and locals alike. Sharp-eyed cinephiles will know it from William Friedkin’s 1970 film The Boys in the Band.
Julius’s has always been popular with the “interesting”—i.e., arty, mixed—downtown crowd. By the late ’30s, when Greenwich Village’s boho fabulosity peaked (see The Young and Evil by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler for a bawdy, unapologetic view of “the life”), Julius’s was the hot spot for outré village types, slumming socialites, and newspapermen. Somehow this charming dive—thickly hung with fading newspaper clippings and PR photos of starlets, jocks, and thoroughbreds—survived both the buttoned-down ’50s and the swinging ’60s intact. Today, Julius’s is home to what is politely called a “mature” crowd of gentlemen and their admirers. Naturally, the jukebox is a diva lover’s dream. Drop in soon for one of Julius’s legendary burgers and the best super-dry manhattan (a bargain at $6) you’ll find south of the Algonquin.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 7, 2004