As we stop to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising with gratitude for those who fought back when police raided the Greenwich Village gay bar, let’s make sure to understand the facts surrounding this seminal moment in LGBTQ+ history. Thankfully, we have the Stonewall 50 Consortium to provide us with the accurate lowdown on what transpired before, during and after the six nights of protest. Here are a few questions answered in a wonderful fact sheet — Stonewall: The Basics — from a collaboration of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites, Making Gay History, National Parks Conservation Association and the Stonewall 50 Consortium.
When did the Stonewall Inn open?
The Stonewall Inn was opened in 1967 by Mafioso Fat Tony Lauria as a “private” gay club — one of the few in Greenwich Village where patrons could dance. Gay bars often operated as “private” clubs to circumvent the New York State Liquor Authority regulation that prohibited gay people from being served alcoholic beverages.
What was Stonewall like inside?
Beyond the front door, which was located in the 53 Christopher Street building, you entered a small vestibule. To the left was a coat check and to the right, through a doorway into the 51 Christopher Street building, was a long rectangular room. On the right side of the room was a long bar and behind that was a dance floor and a jukebox. Opposite the bar was a small entrance back into 53 Christopher where there was a second dance floor, with a jukebox and a small bar at the rear, which was adjacent to two bathrooms. The Stonewall’s interior was painted black as a quick and inexpensive way to mask the fire damage in the space sustained in 1964. The large front windows were painted black and backed by plywood. The Stonewall Inn’s main bar had no running water and there were no fire exits.
Why was the Stonewall Inn raided by the police?
The New York State Liquor Authority regulated liquor licenses, which prohibited the serving of alcohol in “disorderly” establishments. The presence of gay people was considered de facto disorderly. This led to routine police raids of gay bars and clubs.
How long did the confrontations with the police last?
The confrontation with the police unfolded over the course of six nights, with the most intense clashes occurring on the first and sixth nights.
What happened to the Stonewall Inn after the uprising?
The Stonewall Inn went out of business shortly after the uprising and was leased as two separate spaces to a number of different businesses over the years, including a bagel shop, Chinese restaurant and clothing store. From 1987 through 1989, a bar named Stonewall operated our of 51 Christopher Street. When it closed, the historic vertical sign was removed from the building’s facade. None of the original Stonewall Inn’s interior finishes remained.
What about the current Stonewall Inn? When did it open?
In 1990, 53 Christopher Street was leased to a new bar named New Jimmy’s at Stonewall Place and about a year later the bar’s owner changed the name to Stonewall. The current management bought the bar in 2006 and have operated it as the Stonewall Inn ever since. The building at 51 and 53 Christopher Street are privately owned.