On June 28, 1969, the LGBTQ community fought back and changed everything. At the Stonewall Inn in New York’s West Village, when the cops were conducting one of their customary abusive raids of a gay bar, the customers rebelled, leading to the legendary Stonewall riots—anti-oppression demonstrations that gave the queer community a valuable sense of unity and strength. As a result, the community continued to organize, fight back, and grow in visibility through the years.
This June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of that day, and NYC will be filled with all manner of celebrations and activities throughout the month, especially on Pride Day, June 30. As part of the festivities, here are 10 West Village bars to check out, each one a perfect place to party on this monumental occasion.
The Stonewall Inn
Yes, it’s still there! And it’s landmarked! The two-level place is a busy, buzzy, unpretentious hangout, with events like Monday’s Drag Bingo with Kenny Dash, Tuesday’s drag contest called Polish the Queen, and crowded Saturday night dance parties. Amid all the levity, a wonderful sense of history hangs in the air, as opposed to most other bars, where it’s primarily air freshener. 53 Christopher Street (between Seventh Avenue South and Waverly Place)
The longest-running gay bar in New York, Julius is diverse, friendly, and comfy, like a gay version of Cheers but with better music. And it has an extra attraction in a cooking station, where the chef serves up some terrific and affordable burgers, mozzarella sticks, and coffee. The food is as yummy as some of the customers. 159 West 10th Street (between Seventh Avenue South and Waverly Place)
In March, the dynamic duo of Adele and Jennifer Lawrence made a big splash by dropping by this long-running bar together, but I’ve been dutifully going there for decades. It’s smallish and packed, with glittery ceiling hangings and other homemade decor, and the drag shows are funny, especially when the performers do manic mashups, in which they frantically lip-synch to dozens of songs chosen by the audience. Yes, it’s amusing on the rare occasions that you see celebrities there, but that’s far from necessary. Everyone at Pieces is a star. 8 Christopher Street (between Gay Street and Greenwich Avenue)
A lively crowd comes to this sleek spot—and what may just be the only predominantly black gay bar in Manhattan—to schmooze, play pool, and create an alternate universe apart from the traffic of Christopher Street. I’ve always had a blast there, even though it usually charges admission on weekends. From the billiards tables to the fast-pouring bartenders, this is a good place to start the party. 115 Christopher Street (between Hudson and Bleecker Streets)
A lesbian named Storme DeLarverie was believed to be the Stonewall patron who sparked the rebellion against the cops, a reminder of how important lesbians are to the fierceness of the queer community. This popular neighborhood hangout is lesbian-heavy, while billing itself as a “fusion bar” that has been “lesbian, gay and straight friendly since 1994.” The decor is funky, the jukebox rocks, and the mood is casual and fun. 281 West 12th Street (at West 4th Street)
This small, long-running lounge across the street from the Hangar was a big pickup place for leather queens and other macho types way back in the 1970s, when post-Stonewall sexual liberation kicked in big time. Now it’s evolved into just a casual neighborhood bar without much of a sexual charge to it. (Few people go to bars to hook up anymore; they simply go to their apps. Even in bars, they’re generally looking at their phones!) One thing that hasn’t changed since the ’70s, though, is that you’ll rarely find a drag queen there, so Ty’s serves as a sort of fascinating palate cleanser between lip-synch extravaganzas elsewhere. 114 Christopher Street (between Bedford and Bleecker Streets)
Way down Christopher Street, toward the river, is this remote but worthy hangout for drag shows, RuPaul’s Drag Race viewings, Musical Mondays, and bear parties. Rockbar is off a lot of the LGBTQ community’s radar, which makes it a little more interesting than most Village bars…you never quite know what you’ll find there. Definitely worth checking out. 185 Christopher Street (between Weehawken and Washington Streets)
The two-level piano bar/dance club was the center of a flap last year when the manager made what came off sounding like a racist advisory to a promoter, but after that surfaced, he quit, the staff was trained in sensitivity, and things are looking up again. And the Monster has long attracted a racially mixed crowd, which thrills to drag shows, go-go boys, and dancing downstairs and Sondheim songs upstairs. The result feels like the yin and yang of gay cultural proclivities. 80 Grove Street (at West 4th Street)
For 25 years—making it NYC’s oldest lesbian bar—this spot has been a great lesbian-owned, lesbian-filled boîte (but welcoming to others), with a video bar, some heavy-duty mingling, and an outdoor smoking lounge. If you want a taste of sapphic Village fabulousness, Henrietta should be high atop your list. 438 Hudson Street (at Morton Street)
“This is a gay bar” announce the pianists here at odd moments, though it really isn’t anymore. As Marie’s has gotten more publicity through the years (guilty!), the piano bar/hangout has attracted a lot more heteros, and they seem to want to hear a whole lotta Disney! Still, gays will always love their show tunes, so you can’t totally keep them away, as the motley crowd sings along to a variety of stuff, from Show Boat to Dear Evan Hansen to, yes, Frozen. On a recent weekend, the bar was insisting on a one-drink minimum—which is new—but that’s a small price to pay for the chance to feign stardom in a party environment. 59 Grove Street (between Bleecker Street and Seventh Avenue South)