NEW YORK CITY: Oldest Gay Bar To Close After More Than 50 Years
Candle Bar, the neighborhood's oldest gay bar — and some argue the oldest in the city — is closing at the end of the month. The Amsterdam Avenue bar opened in the mid-1960s, and some people argue it has had its license and been openly gay longer than Julius, a West Village gay bar that claims to be the oldest in the city. Candle Bar's closing marks the end of an era for the regulars who frequented the neighborhood spot. The bar will close its doors on June 22. The dive bar, near West 75th Street, has stuck around despite rising rents and changes along the avenue because the building owner also operated the business, said the bar's manager Amonte Demarko, 37, who described it as the "only" gay bar in the neighborhood.Friends Of Ours reports that like other early New York City gay bars, Candle Bar may have been Mafia-run in its early years.
The premises has existed as a gay bar since 1958 when it was opened by George Fluss; however, it was a short run for Fluss. He lost his liquor license in 1959 for permitting "homosexual activities" on the premises according to New York State Liquor Authority records. Fluss went on to work at other gay bars and restaurants in the early 1960s including at the Pines & Dunes Yacht Club on Fire Island and the Coat of Arms at 140 East 53rd Street. Ralph Pansini took over the 309 Amsterdam Avenue space in 1960 under the name Candlelight Lounge, and continued to operate it as a gay bar. Pansini wore a wire for New York District Attorney Frank Hogan's investigation into corruption at the State Liquor Authority. The investigation brought down SLA head Martin Epstein and agency fixer Hyman Siegel who specialized in licensing cases.Candle Bar will hold closing parties next weekend.
RELATED: According to its Wikipedia entry, Julius was "harassing and ejecting" gay customers until 1966.