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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

 

 

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Comments

Tony Powell

"Oh, I do recall the Firehouse @ 99 Wooster."

OMG!!!! The Firehouse was my FIRST! gay "place"...I was SIXTEEN, but tall for my age, 6'1".

I'd read about the party in the Village Voice when it was still an "underground" newspaper. I was scared shitless, but determined to find "my people" I got in without a whimper! Still, I'm very nervous and I'm about one of three? black people in the place...fortunately, a couple of "older" (probably in their late 20's) men come over and chat...for real, no pick-up intentions...but I was "hoping" :-)

Glen Bentstein

Does anyone remember the "Headless Horseman" gay bar on W.10-th Street in Greenwich Village ? The owner lived in Old Tappan, New Jersey.It was down a flight of stairs there there in the late 1970's (c.1979-80) or so. However, it seems to have been lost through time and was not there very long either.If you remember it....leave a comment on this blog and tell us of your memories. Thanks so much !

LUANN RHATHOEL

Does anyone remember the "Headless Horseman" gay bar on W.10-th Street in Greenwich Village ? The owner lived in Old Tappan, New Jersey.It was down a flight of stairs there there in the late 1970's (c.1979-80) or so. However, it seems to have been lost through time and was not there very long either.If you remember it....leave a comment on this blog and tell us of your memories. Thanks so much !

Eric Galbraith

Greetings Rob.
I came across your blog earlier today for RIP to NYC of yore. One of your readers, Lee L. posted a comment 2 years back asking if anyone remembered the adult bookstore on Christopher Street. In response to that inquiry, I remember it well. I lived in Apt.9, top floor above the bookshop at 130 Christopher Street from '79 to '81. I was 21 when I rented the apartment, and I had been living in the East Village for 2 years prior. In 1977 I came to the Big Apple to go to acting school. Needless to say, Boots & Saddles, Ty's, Trilogy, 9th Circle, and Uncle Charlie's Downtown were all bars on my local stomping ground which I patronized on a frequent basis. And, of course, when one was feeling extra raunchy (on rare occasions): Badlands, The Rammrod, and The Mine Shaft. Being a tad shy and reserved at the time didn't stop me from hitting the bars and clubs regularly, but it definitely kept me from becoming a fatal statistic when the band eventually stopped playing and many were called upon to pay the bill. I'm certainly not one to live in the past,(the now LONG past) but I do cherish my memories of gay Village nightlife in that most golden, almost forgotten era of the late '70s -'81. I too kept journals of those golden years, and every once in a while I drag them out, dust them off, and reminisce.
While living above the bookstore, I would often pull a chair up to my window overlooking Christopher Street and Hudson to observe the following: on busy weekend afternoons, when the sidewalks were teaming with gay men, mostly non-villagers down for a look-see...what the occasional visitor wouldn't see was a fire hydrant strategically placed a few feet up from the corner. While walking toward the river and looking back to cruise some hottie who had caught his eye, it was not uncommon to walk full steam ahead into the hydrant in exchange for a brutal blow beneath the knee. It was always entertaining to watch the recovery (delivered by the victim for the benefit of all who had witnessed the incident) while pretending that it was no big deal. Personally, I have never walked into a fire hydrant....but its gotta hurt!!! Just thought I'd share.
Anywho, when you do cue up the band for "I'm Still Here", give me a shout. I'll be happy to join in the chorus. Like the dinosaurs who roamed the earth in their final days before us, there aren't many of us left.
Thank you for the venue, and thank you for keeping a little light shining on this brief but most colorful period of our cultural history. Cheers, Eric G.

timmmyk

My very first gay bar was Boots and Saddle in 1979. It took so much for me to gulp and walk into the place, convinced someone I knew from Long Island was going to recognize me. I was 19 and an 'old' guy - a very nice, well dressed, handsome, professional gentleman - offered to buy me my first drink in a gay bar. I was stunned by the attention, said, 'no thank you' and ran away. Not too long after that I was wide eyed and oblivious when I was completely shunned by the crowd then insulted and summarily dismissed by a regular at Badlands because I was a 'brown,' a suburban guy who wore a brown leather jacket instead of the mandatory black leather.

Jim DiGiovanni

The Works was not on Columbus Avenue in the 90s but rather on Columbus Avenue between W80 and W81 St.

Dennis Coutinho

South Dakota was located on 3rd Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets. Was my local bar and the bartender was the nicest. I worked at Crisco Disco at the time. Dated SD bartender and sure would love to know how to go about locating anyone from SD at that time

Frank

My first trip to NYC (as a naïve preppy boy from North Carolina, who had been Out in our local clubs but was not quite prepared for the Big Apple!) was in March of 1982 to visit a high school friend who was at Barnard. I remember "Making Love" (the movie) had just been released and we saw it in a theatre near Times Square. Even in NYC, people were gagging when the two men kissed for the first time!

Bars I remember seeing or going to that you don't list:
-Cahoots (neon sign out front; I didn't go in, but Paul Monette mentions this as the bar his departed partner about whom _Borrowed Time_ was written picked up the trick who gave him HIV)
-Ice Palace 57 (where I recall a magician and drag queen "assistant" coming out and doing a show at some point
-Somewhere on 96th with 96 in the title, I think? I saw it in my Bob Damron and went, only to realize it was an African-American bar.
-There was a porn store called Ft. Dix down on Christopher; I had a nice night with a guy who worked there, and later stopped by to hang out with him at work.

Wish I could remember more from my early '80s visits; going to bars was pretty much what I did every night back then!

James Weasie

THE HAYMARKET (47th and 8th Avenue)
This was a true hustler bar in the old Times Square of Hell's Kitchen, which featured a bar, booths, a pool table, and mature men spending $20 for a piece of the pie. Yes, 20 bucks! That one will make your pussy scream to get out of its bloomas !...Can you gag?....Those were the days of the 1970'sand early 80's !

Dave

Hi Eric,

I also lived in an apartment above the book store on Christopher St. but only from March - October of 1979.My boyfriend Patrick and I worked downstairs in the book store and I have memories of Lou Reed,Divine,Anthony Perkins and Jackie Curtis visiting the shop. Also, daily visits from soon-to-be legends Marsha P Johnson and Rollerina. So many great stories! Danny's and The Cockring, along with Nicky's Gallery and Hurrahs! were my favorite bars/discos.Pat eventually moved to Boston and I moved to LA with my (then) boyfriend. So many great memories of living in Manhattan from 1975 - 1983!

jose luis Fernández

I am defenitely younger that you.When I arrived in NYC on October 1969 the frist gay bar I went in was on 57 st and Lexington Avenue, it was called the MENINSHA, I was very young and the crowd very old; the nexT one was the YUKON on Lexington and 51st, the City Corp building didnt exist at the time, and one close to my place was THE CANDY STORE, really interesting; on the mezaninne theatrical students used to perform fragments of Broadway commedies. I was never very much a Greenwich Village fan. The Badlands and the Eagle's nest horrified me. The worst as far as I am concerned was THE ANVIL, I only went once

Steve schreiber

Any info on a gay club ( bar, maybe) in the village, The Grapevine. Once, in the late 60s, I accompanied a gay friend, Everett Robbins, to meet his friends, while I sat in the club having a drink or 3.

CHRIS

OH MY GOD! SO MANY WONDERFUL MEMORIES. MOVED TO NYC FROM CA IN FEB 1971. 1ST TIME IN GREENWICH VILLAGE I THOT I'D GONE TO HOT BOY HEAVEN. (THEY WERE BOYS BACK THEN! HOT HOT HOT ON CHRISTOPHER ST). WORKED AT BROADWAY & 12th SO WALKED TO THE PATH EVERY NITE PICKING UP AS MANY AS 3 TRICKS A NITE. DON'T FORGET NEW JIMMY'S ON 2ND AVE WHERE WAYLAND & MADAME FIRST APPEARED, THE TRUBADOR AND SEBASTION'S (SP ON BOTH) ON 1ST BETWEEN 58 & 59. MET "BARNABAS COLLINS" THERE AND PEGGY CASS WAS FREQUENTLY THERE. COUNTRY COUSIN ALWAYS FUN. MINESHAFT TOO (WOKE UP ONE MORNING NAKED ON THE BAR!) FELL DOWN THE STAIRS AT THE 9TH CIRCLE. AND I HAVE MANY MORE STORIES UNTIL NEXT TIME...

vincent ward

I've been to several of these. The first bar I went to was Chaps (not mentioned) which was on Third Avenue between East 87-88. Western theme and a (back room). I stopped going when they began playing the music way too loud. It closed soon after. I wonder why?

Eric Galbraith

Hi Dave,
You must have been moving out of 130 Christopher St. while I was moving in!! I took possession the 1st of October 1979, but actually moved in on the 14th of the month. I remember it well because the date coincided with the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. While I was hauling my stuff up 3 flights of narrow stairs over multiple trips, masses of charged-up gay men and women were pouring into the village via charter busses to celebrate the days victory. Some ratty looking queen was parked out on the front steps beneath my window blaring Donna Summers out of a boombox for hours that first night...and I thought my head was going to pop off. Fond memories as well of Village life during that era!

H. Monti

Do you remember the restaurant on the corner of 55th St. and 1st Have? Popular with the gay east side crowd in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s?

Louis Grande Louise

Yes ! To: Dharmabum who posted the comment on 10/15/14....I remember "LE BAR" quite vividly from 1981-83. Bernard was the owner and Robert one of the bartenders (we briefly dated).It was a very small,but notorious hustla-bar,just off 3rd Avenue and up the street from the larger and more well-known "ROUNDS."I used to go in there after work with skin-tight designer jeans,leather jacket and pointy-toed boots in the disco-era.Men would whistle at me on the street,guys would proposition me in there and the hustlers would occasionally follow me in the bathroom to grope me,kiss me,and fondle me...I loved the attention.but was not a hustler ! I Only went there for drinks and the attention of being a cute 25 year old guido from Brooklyn...LOL !

Rob

I believe you're thinking of The Mayfair.

tania

Hello Rob,
your post is very interesting. May I ask you to help me with some question if you can? I'm translating from Russian a short story in which one of the caracters, a gay catholic priest who actually live and preach (on the radio too) in Washington, visits regularely a bar called Sennik (not sure about its spelling in English), located according to story on the 8th Ave, to flirt and to find younger lovers there. The name of the bar is obviously fictional, and quite strange too. The story takes place between 1979 and 1981. Were there many gay bars on the 8th Ave then besides Rawhide? Can Rawhide be the model for this fictional location? I'm not sure you will see my question in the first place, but if you do, I will be very very grateful to you for any suggestions.

Rob

Hi Tania,

Since Chelsea didn't become popular with gay men until around 1990 I don't think there were any gay bars on 8th Ave. except for Rawhide. (I was new to the City in the 1979-81 period and my time was spent largely in the West Village.)

Steven

I am trying to remember the name of a hustler bar I used to frequent on W. 46th St. in NYC in the '80s-90s. I believe it was between 6th-7th Avenues. The owner was a lesbian, and the guys danced on a stage in the basement.

Thank you for your help.

tania

Thank you so much, Rob! It's a great help really.
I am sorry for my mistakes, I don't practice my English often enough.

Marko-Antonio

There was the infamous "Hay-Market" Hustler bar on W.46th Street and 8th Avenue in the 70's,through the mid 80's.It was on the corner,and on the opposite side of The fabled "Adonis Theater"...a few blocks North.

Johnathan Loeser

Hey I use to go to the Haymarket, I was young once lol, I loved the burgers and fries , I met Paul from the Hollywood squares, Very funny man ,at the time there was a mgr Mike he was very kool and he lived in Jersey. I have a lot of found memories.
Johnathan

Chet K.

I live in NYC since the early 70's, retired and left, but your site helped jog my memory. Just skimmed thru and maybe adding some already posted, but here's a few I didn't catch or just want to remark:
The Yukon. Nice to find cuz it had dancing. On 53rd just off Lex, I think
Johnny's Pub on 47th off Lex drew the Yukon when it closed. Small dance floor and a loaded jukebox.
Barefoot Boy, already noted, but I think it was mentioned in some disco song but don't remember.
The Quilted Giraffe upper East Side
The Pegasus
29 Palms
Keller's

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