The Andrews Sisters & My First Stirrings of "Camp"
2014 Oscars Recap - Ellen DeGeneres Hosts a Kinder, Gentler Academy Awards

RIP to All the Gay Bars in New York City I've Known

SplashThe year 2013 saw the closing of two bars, both in Chelsea, that served and entertained a generation of gay customers from opposite ends of the "attitude" spectrum.  In March, leather-and-Levis Rawhide on 8th Ave. closed after 34 years while Splash, with all of its muscle-tee hotties, closed its doors in August after 21 years.  Then three years later two other Chelsea mainstays, XES and g Lounge, were shuttered.  These closings had me reminiscing about all the bars I've frequented, and outlived, since moving to New York in 1979 (cue up "I'm Still Here" from Follies).  Of course, they represent just a fraction of those that have closed (e.g., I didn't hang out much in the East Village), but here are three dozen I remember (in alphabetical order):

 

BADLANDS (Christopher & West Side Hwy)

It had one of the most memorable bar logos, a wolf howling at the moon.  It closed after two people were fatally shot there by a crazed man in the winter of 1981.

 

Rip

 

BARBARY COAST (7th Ave. near 14th St.)

Taking its name from old San Francisco's red light district, this cozy bar had a vaulted ceiling from when it was a bank lobby.  Now closed for more than 20 years, I went there a few times in the first half of the 1980s when I lived on 15th St.  A lasting memory is when my boyfriend bought a one-month pass to the Chelsea Gym (also long gone) from an elderly patron who won it in a raffle there, and then gave it to me. 

 

BILLY'S (West Village or Chelsea)

This establishment is unique because I don't remember it, but apparently I was there because I wrote an entry about it in my journal from 1986.  On April 26 I went there for its 2nd anniversary celebration and had champagne.

 

BOGART'S (E. 59th St. between 2nd and 1st Avenues)

Its distinguishing characteristic was the fact that it was within spitting distance of the Queensboro Bridge.  It had a piano in the front of the bar.

 

BOOTS & SADDLE (76 Christopher St.)

After "gracing" the corner near the famed Village Cigar in Sheridan Square for 41 years, Boots & Saddle  (lovingly referred to by some as Bras & Girdles) closed in the spring of 2015.  Although I went inside just once, taking a 15-second look-see, I feel like I've been to it often since I've walked by it thousands of times.  However, this closing did not mean the end for B&S as it was been reincarnated a block south on 7th Ave. South in a space that used to be Actors Playhouse, a cozy space for off-off-Broadway shows (and where Naked Boys Singing had a long run).  Alas, the new location didn't meet with success and it closed after only a few years.

 

Bootsandsaddle        

 

BOY BAR (15 St. Mark's Place)

The East Village wasn't my stomping grounds and this is the only bar I recall going to.  It had two levels.  And they had nice matchbooks.

 

Boybar.matchbook

 

THE BREAK (8th Ave./21st St.)

It occupied a somewhat cramped, narrow space that could be a challenge to walk through.  Like so many other bars, it had a pool table in the back.  A few years after it closed a bar called The View opened in the same location and also closed.

 

CHAMPS (W. 20th St. between 5th & 6th Avenues)

This was the earliest sports bar, located a few blocks north of Splash.  It had a bank of bleacher seats and a dance floor.  It opened in 1994 (two years after Splash) and lasted only a few years.

 

Champs.bar

 

CHASE (W. 55th St.)

One of the first new gay bars in the vicinity of Hell's Kitchen, it opened around 2000.  It lasted just a few years but it heralded the explosion of gay life in this neighborhood, albeit 5-10 blocks further south.

 

Chase.bar

 

CHELSEA TRANSFER (8th Ave. in the Teens)

In business for just a brief time in the '90s, it had a beautiful curved mahogany bar (perhaps it was teak).  The few times I scoped out the place on a Saturday night there wasn't much of a crowd.

 

Chelsea.transfer.bar

 

The Cock Ring (corner of Christopher St./West Side Hwy)

This was the first place I danced with a man, in January 1980.  A few years later it closed when the building it was in was sold; after renovations Uncle Charlie's opened a bar there in the mid-1980s but it only lasted a few years.

 

COMPANY (Gramercy)

It was a bar and restaurant which I dined at perhaps half a dozen times in the 1980s.  I believe it was on Third Ave. around 30th St.

 

COWBOYS & COWGIRLS (E. 53rd St. between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)

Not to be confused with the Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant in the West Village.  My lasting memory of this establishment was that I was there the night the US hockey team beat the Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympics. 

 

CRAWFORDS (Upper East Side in the 80s)

Open very briefly.  I never went to it (to the Upper East Side?) but remember it for its ad in HX and Next which showed Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.  Rather than her line, "Take out this bitch of a retaining wall and put a window where it ought to be", the ad has her saying, "Put a bar where a bar ought to be".

 

Joancrawford  

 

DANNY'S (corner of Christopher and Greenwich St.)

Although I've written in my journal about going to this bar in the early '80s,  for the life of me I don't remember anything about it.  It was later renovated and became the Village Styx.

 

'g' LOUNGE (W. 19th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues)

This bar was fine to go to with friends but I didn't enjoy going there alone because it didn't have a lot of room to walk around in like Splash or The Monster.  Also, the music could be deafening.  I'd sometime go there on Friday evenings with friends, but the last time I set foot in the place was two or three years ago.  (g's space was taken over by another gay bar, Rebar, shortly thereafter.)

 

G bar   

 

HARRY'S BACK EAST (Third Ave./E. 80th St.)

This was the first NYC gay bar I set foot in, during the fall of 1979.  It was set up with a bar in the front and dance space in the back.  It closed in the early 1980s.

 

KING (6th Ave. between W. 16th & W. 17th Streets)

It had three floors, with a dance floor on the second floor.

 

LAST CALL (Second Ave. just off 53rd St.) 

An elderly gentleman bought me a drink here after work on my 23rd birthday (at the time "elderly" to me probably meant late 40s).

 

Ninth Circle (W. 10th St. between Greenwich Ave. & 7th Ave. South)

Once a steakhouse, it became popular in the 1970s and '80s with hustlers and their "admirers".  I walked in an out of it once.  Gone for more than 20 years, it's now a restaurant.

 

9th.Circle

 

NORTH DAKOTA (Third Ave./36th St.)

It closed around 1986 and Uncle Charlie's Midtown, which was originally a few blocks further north, took over its space.

 

PRIVATE EYES (Chelsea/between 5th & 6th Avenues in the W. 20s)

A bar with a dance floor.  I spent a rather disappointing New Year's Eve (1987) there with a boyfriend I broke up with a few weeks later.  (The blog Kenneth in the 212 has written a more in-depth post about this bar/club that you can find here.) 

 

Private.eyes.tshirt

 

RAWHIDE (8th Ave. & 21st St.)

One of those bars that suffered from the City's smoking ban as cigar and cigarette smoke was part of its "atmosphere".

 

REGENCY EAST (E. 58th St./near Third Ave.)

Before the Townhouse there was Regency East, at the other end of E. 58th St.  Unlike the Townhouse there were no steps to walk up so you didn't have to worry about an embarrassing fall if you had too much to drink.  RE closed around 1990.

 

Closed

 

ROME (8th Ave. & 26th St.)

Open briefly, but it didn't attract much of a crowd and then went after a straight clientele.

 

ROUNDS (E. 53 St./Second Ave.)

A high-end hustler's bar during the late '70s/early '80s with a nice restaurant.  My first ad agency job was in this neighborhood and co-workers and I occasionally came here for birthday celebrations.

 

Cute_boys_1950s

 

SOUTH DAKOTA (Gramercy)

A comfortable, no-attitude place in the mold of Ty's in the West Village.  It was around for a long time before I paid a visit.  When I finally did go I had a quick drink, looked around, wasn't inspired by what I saw and left.   I seem to recall it being on Second Avenue around 25th St.

 

SPLASH/SBNY (W. 17th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.)

I enjoyed going here because of its videos, spaciousness and roster of bare chested Chelsea boy bartenders.  I usually went during happy hour on Friday.  Splash has the distinction of being the only bar where I threw a drink in someone's face.

 

Splashbar.memorabilia

 

TRILOGY (next to the Christopher St. Path Station)

A nice little bar with a restaurant in the back (1980s), it later became the notorious Chi-Chi's, which attracted a loud, black/Hispanic crowd that was a blight on the neighborhood.  It closed around 2008 and is now a Thai fusion restaurant.

 

UNCLE CHARLIE'S DOWNTOWN (Greenwich Ave.)

The "It" bar of the 1980s, this is the bar I frequented the most.  In 1990 and 1991 I lived across the street from the bar and could watch who was coming and going from my kitchen window (and I witnessed a number of hilarious cat fights out on the sidewalk.)

 

Uncle.charlies.boxturtlebulletin

Uncle.charlies.bar   

 

UNCLE CHARLIE'S SOUTH (Third Ave/38th St.)

This was the hopping bar in the late '70s/early '80s before a sister bar opened in the Village in 1981.  And if you were in the mood for dancing, the club Stix was close by on Second Ave. (in an earlier incarnation it was The Barefoot Boy).  And Uncle Charlie's restaurant was a block or two south on Third Ave.

 

Uncle.charlies.south.drinkticket

 Stix.disco

 

UNCLE PAUL'S (upper Christopher St.)

Another bar I may have been in only once or twice, it's now the bar Pieces.

 

THE VILLAGE STYX (corner of Christopher & Greenwich Streets)

This was a very attractive bar for Christopher St., with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the street.  It was open for only a few years and then became an XXX video store with downstairs booths.  That survived much longer, more than 20 years.   

 

THE WORKS (Upper West Side/Columbus Ave. in the W. 80s)

Because of its location I didn't get to it very often, but I liked it.  It occupied a long, narrow space.

 

THE_WORKS_1_large

 

XES (24th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues)

Cramped in a cozy way, with a small outdoor garden, XES was in business for 12 years, opening in 2004.  I can recall just three times going there, once for an OP networking event and the two other times were for a birthday gathering (same person).  Every time there it was raining so I never got to enjoy the garden.

 

Xes exterior1

 

XL (W. 16th St. near 9th Ave.)

With a smartly modern, two-level design, it was open just a short time, between 2000-2005.  The last time I was there was the weekend before 9-11.  Scenes from an episode of Sex in the City were filmed in its striking bathroom.

 

Xl.bar.chelsea

 

Finally, the t-shirt company Do You Remember sells a line of t-shirts that pay tribute to close to two dozen NYC bars/clubs from the past.  To visit the site double click here

 

 

Save

Comments

Rob

Hi Chet, the song that mentioned Barefoot Boy was "New York, You Got Me Dancing'" by Andrea True Connection.

Dino NJ

To address some previous posts: it was named Candle Bar, not "Candlelight" (on Amsterdam Ave between 74th & 75th in the Upper West Side). Small neighborhood bar with a pool table. I think it closed 4 or 5 years ago. There was also a hustler bar (can't remember name) in that neighborhood, maybe a block or two away? Not too far (West 70's) in the late 80s/early-mid 90s as well.

Dino NJ

Thanks for including King on 6th Ave on the list Rob. That dance floor on the 2nd floor was an actual enclosed room. Very small & intimate.

I interviewed to become a bartender there on July 10, 1995, when it had just opened.
That was an especially hot summer, late June & the first half of July, with temps in the upper 90's/low 100's and the accompanying, extremely oppressive heat indexes. I remember being there about 7pm for the interview and there was absolutely no one on the sidewalks.

Needless to say, never ended up getting the job as all the prime weekend shifts were already staffed. Working late night on an off night during the week was not doable, as I already had a job during the day, which I started that very same day of the interview, which is why I remember the precise July 10, 1995 date.

Came back 2 or 3 times as a patron, the last being April 1996 (went to the NY International Auto Show that day) and it wasn't very busy. Never seemed to gain traction or get going. Probably only lasted at least a year or two.

Alex

I had come across your Lost Bars list while searching, as I do every so often, for any references to "Billy's Chelsea Bar". Oddly enough it was one you could not clearly remember, and it is the one I remember best, it being my first gay bar back in September 1984. I came across it on my first trip to NYC. When I went back in 1986, I could not believe that a couple of the bartenders, including the owner Billy, remembered and recognized us.

When I finally moved to the City, it was gone, though over the years it resurfaced with different names. They were all seemingly very popular incarnations, but it never felt the same to me. When it was The Break, I believe it was owned by the same guy who also owned the Works. I tried making inquiries but to no avail.

Years ago I finally thought of trying the staff of the Rawhide, seeing as it was always a staple on Eighth Ave, I discovered it had just closed its doors for the last time, and literally closing an era.

If anyone out there remembers any of the staff, especially Billy himself or Peter, or has any information about them, I would appreciate it. It would be great to be able to send them my regards and let them know they have never been forgotten.

Alex (now in Toronto)

Neiani Leiyah

06.15.2020|05:39pm

Dear Bob, yes it brought a lot of memories of my new found freedom of being gay but was not lucky in the gay world as far as meeting 'him'
maybe because I was soft and feminine instead of being 'butch'. Just in case you missed it, my very first gay dance bar was called The Round Table
located (hope I'm right) on the north side of 51st between Madison and Park Ave. Have you been there or heard of it? Back then, beautiful and sexy lipsyncing drag queens with their Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, etc song numbers. I was originally looking for my former boyfriends and the bars I met them, and this is how I came across your site. Thank you very much for this. Have a good one and be safe in this our COVID-19 global pandemic.

H♡gs to you and yours. . .

Neiani

JOHN VETTER

The Circle (9th) was by far the best bar for Disco Sucks gay guys , met so many cool people there, and the best Jukebox in the early 80's ..Not to mention iconic pictures of Janice and Lennon. Just a great place to be a non traditional 70's clone. No offense meant. And another one not mentioned The Headless Horseman right across from the 9th C , Great owners, bartenders ,quiet drinking bar with an awesome stained glass depiction of The Horseman riding carrying his head lol

Rob

Hi John, I've never heard of the Headless Horeseman - was it a gay bar?

Strtlevel

I used to do my laundry on Third Avenue and 29th Street, I believe there's a Dunkin Donuts there now. South Dakota was next door to the laundromat, and I used to stop in there during my rinse cycle. Not sure if they moved to there/from there, my memory of South Dakota is 29th & 3rd. This would have been 1982 or so.

Also, I used to drink at a bar called McGregor's Garage on St Marks Place. I knew a girl from Belize, we used to go out dancing occasionally. McGregor's was the only place I knew to find her. One night I went down to see if she was around, and there was a giant crowd outside, turns out McGregor's Garage had closed and it was opening night at Boy Bar. It looked pretty packed, I was going to go somewhere else and then I saw Quentin Crisp's taxi pull up and he went in. Someone else said tap beer was free, so it didn't take much more for me to go in. Had a great time!

Marius

Hi, I am trying to research a portrait I got from my late friend Charles Duval Whitehead, who was the uncle of the original owner of the original Uncle Charlie's Bar bar, which was on 3rd Avenue in the Murray Hill section. When my friend was older, I used to drive him into the City and we were never charged for drinks at his nephew's bar!

By chance, might you know his nephew's name? He was the original owner, and later opened another one in Florida.

Thanks for any help or any direction you, or one of your readers, can give me.

Tom ledcle

The Crowbar was my fave. The Bar was on my corner so I’d stat there then mosey down to Crowbar and a bar on First Ave and 9th? Then once in a blue moon to Club 84 on 2nd and4th between 1990 and 1996 there were blue moons almost every weekend.

Rob

Who knows, we may have encountered each other at Club 84, which I occasionally visited in the early '90s.

RODNEY PHILLIPS

EXCELLENT ARTICLE---[THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. DO YOUV REMBER THE STUD? I HAVEN'T THE FAINTEST IDEA WHERE IT WAS. ALSO THE ROADHOUSE CORNER OF W. 11TN AND 7TH AVE.

THERE IS ONE OTHER SOMWHERE WEST OF 7TH AVE--HD A SMALL BACKROOM

ALSO WAVERLY WAVERLEY A BAR ON THE TOP FLOOR.


RODNEY PHILLIPS

Alston Green

Sam , I think the place you are thinking of was Zone DK

a1

i still remember the nice bartenders from south dakota during 1998, like fidel and rene.
it was such a cool bar with many nice guys.
do someone knows those bartenders and how are they, in those days? i will be happy to know it or to contact in their facebook.

Jorge

Anyone remenber THE SAINT It was so big went there 2 may 3 times that dance floor was amazing never so one so big and the ligth show just beyond great i wonder if the building still there 105 second ave

Rob

Hi Jorge, I've written two posts about The Saint. You can find them either in the category Nightlife on this blog or Google, "The Saint Opens as AIDS Looms", and "Last Dance at The Saint".

James Cherry

Just to clear up a couple of loose ends: The gay bar on 9th Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets was called Crossroads. One bartender there in its prime was named Paul Schisler. I know because I had briefly dated him. An Upper Westside haunt that is mentioned by one former patron was officially called 'The Candlelight Lounge' but was known informally as 'The Candle'. The West Village bar known as 'The Stud' or sometimes oddly, 'The International Stud', had a gold and black lettered, street-facing window naming itself 'The International'. (Its original name from God knows how long before its time as a backroom gay bar.) It was West of Hudson Street and a couple of blocks north of where I lived on Hudson and 10th Street when I was 20 years old. I once returned from 'The Stud' and sensing I was being followed, trotted up the steps of my unlocked tenement building only to have this person (whose face I had never even seen) find his way to my door. I braced myself against the door and looking out the peephole I could only see another eye looking back at me. He whispered in a husky voice: "What's the matter, don't you want any?" There happened to be a gay serial killer on the loose in those days (early 70's) and I am quite sure I had an encounter with him and I don't think they ever caught the guy. Well, it made a good goose bump-raising story back in the day.

Nick Perry

Wow all great memories bunch of bars in Queens also, Flavors all time favorite just a lot of fun knew most of the bartenders there. Cockring loads of fun dancing for ever, Twilo too does anyone remember USA ? Off of 8th Av?

bill bohaboy

how about the Alamo on 8th ave it was upstairs from a coffee shop, mob owned it was a fun place i met my lover there in 1967 lol. damn alot of water under the bridge.

Mikey M

Actually, it was the Ramrod where the shooting occured in 1981 (which was next to Sneskers in the middle of the block on West St.). Badlands was on the corner of West and Christopher.

Toni

Don't forget Choo Choo bar on the west side highway " Sneakers "

Anthony

What about the Haymarket, O, Nealls Backyard or Trix all hustler bars in mid town on the west side

Roger

The underground place was on 14th and Ninth (or Hudson) and was appropriately called THE UNDERGROUND.

I believe I have been at every one of rthe bars mentioned in the article.

Please don't let that article ever disappear.

Ritch

Hey Gents, IDK if this post is still active, but IM having a mental block about my daze back in the East Village..late 80's. I lived on 7th between 1st and Ave A... I know the Pyramid was around the corner to the east, on A, but I seem to remember hanging out slightly to the west, on 1st or 2nd Ave...with all my buds... A total dive bar, super friendly (if ya know what I mean)...and am particularly trying to rebuild the memory of a friend long gone whom I met there. I think it was simply called "The Bar"....and a Google search led me here. Anyone know anything more specific about it? It doesn't seem to show up on any of the "bars of yore" lists... Thank you! Ritch

Bubba

Ritch, I remember "The Bar". It was on an avenue, maybe 1st. Very plain, pool tables, neighborhood kind of place.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)