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After 71 Years, Nation’s Oldest Gay Bar Shuts Down

Happy Pride: The country’s oldest gay bar is closing! Though I feel like a dozen bars in the U.S. claim to be the nation’s most senior, the Cedar Brook Café in Westport, Connecticut, is shutting down on June 26 after 71 years of serving scotches and cosmos to the moneyed classes, and that seems like a long enough time to take the title. (It opened in 1939? As a gay bar?) Clem Bellairs, who’s owned the place for a dozen years, explains the shuttering: “The landlord died and the people who bought it doubled my rent. I can’t afford it anymore.” It’ll probably become a Starbucks.

By:           Ryan Tedder
On:           Jun 18, 2010
Tagged: , , ,

  • 13 Comments
    • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"
      Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

      I guess this will be quite the news at the White Horse, opened 75 fabulous years ago in Berkeley, the actual first gay bar in American, and still going strong. Also a Berkeley first, the first bathhouse, the Steamworks, also still going strong.

      I spent most of my spare college pocket money at both establishments; loads, pun intended, of fun! That was 30 years ago and some of my J/O library favorites come from those many fun times.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Robby
      Robby

      Just because it was in Westport, doesn’t mean it catered to “the moneyed classes”.

      For several decades, before GLBT clubs in high schools and colleges, gay community centers, the internet, etc. The Brook (as we all called it) was the ONLY gay bar between Hartford, CT and NYC. I feel it’s safe to say the Brook kept a lot of queer folk alive by being a haven for people of all economic classes, ages, genders and races.

      I haven’t been there since the 80’s but I’m sad to hear it’s gone.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • J. Clarence
      J. Clarence

      I get that the bar holds some sentimental value as one of the nation’s oldest gay bars; however, it is still a bar, i.e. a business. It needs to produce a profit, and if the owner can’t make rent then he has to close it.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tessie Tura
      Tessie Tura

      I was under the impression that the bar in Birmingham, Alabama known as Club 21 has operated as a gay bar, in the same location, since Prohibition, when the upstairs (which was a piano bar in the late 80s – I played there) was a gay speakeasy, password at the door and all. I’m not sure of its current name but I believe it is still operating.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ogre Magi
      Ogre Magi

      Wow, I bet some interesting things happened at those places. Someone should write a book. “The oldest gay bars tell all!”

      Jun 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ponyboy
      Ponyboy

      Cafe Lafite In Exile in New Orleans is the oldest gay bar in the country. :)

      Jun 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon (that one)
      Jon (that one)

      Wow. You couldn’t be more wrong in historical terms.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 7:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • richard
      richard

      The second oldest gay bar in the united states is what it said in the main barroom…somewhat sad it is closing…it was every CT gay man’s coming out bar…the easiest place to get laid but it is time…the current owner plays to the hardcore drug crowd that makes it a dangerous and scary place to go now…somehow they forgot to be gay,

      Jun 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • :)
      :)

      Just went there for the first time last week (I’m 21). It claims to be the oldest on it’s website but there’s a sign inside that says second oldest. It’s got a really diverse crowd (race, age, size, gender, socioeconomics). It’s got two dance floors, two bars and reasonable prices. The music is a little too loud for the speakers and the only place you can hold a conversation is the smoking corral. Anyways, the story is that some guy bought up a lot of property in Westport including the bar and raised the rent on them unreasonably just to kick them out. The neighbors don’t like it, which is really their own fault because Cedar Brook was there first, cops like to hang out close by and pull over anyone leaving. But (rich) people who live in connecticut suck. There’s only one other gay bar in southern CT and it’s so far away that you might as well go to NYC. I’ve got to go one more time before it closes.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • :)
      :)

      BTW it’s still open, next Saturday is the last night.

      Jun 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dan
      Dan

      It won’t become a Starbucks. Why? Because Starbucks is already next door to it.

      Jun 19, 2010 at 6:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Wade MacMorrighan
      Wade MacMorrighan

      Damn, if only someone would make a documentary about the history of the oldest gay bars in the U.S.! I’d oh-so-totally watch that! (History-buff, here.)

      Jun 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ryder from Water Mill
      Ryder from Water Mill

      Sad yes, but that is sentiment.
      The place was run for many decades with reckless abandon. One would need a Texas Instruments calculator to tabulate the unprotected sex that went on in there. Going to tea dance in the late 80’s or early 90’s was simply a vector to get AIDS.

      Many, many people died in DUI car wrecks including several of their own staff ( ask about Hal on his motorcycle) , or the woman who worked there- Elsie who sold coke, crack and heroin.
      Her own husband was shot to death by the Bridgeport Police in a drug buy gone bad.

      If you want easy and unsafe sex and/or drugs the Brook was the place to go.

      Its nice to be nostalgic now that the clock strikes twelve.
      However, I have personal knowledge of dead people in cars, kids with AIDS and plenty of overdoses at Norwalk Hospital.

      And if anybody is forty or more they will remember the house on Cedar (#5) that came with the Brook lease, that is where the orgies took place.

      It is hard to run a small business, especially one that is highly regulated. However, To have been a launch pad for disease and addiction for so many years, its demise maybe a good thing.

      Am I a narrow-minded biggot, well no, I have been there more than 1000 times. Literally more than a 1000. I saw what I saw.
      I found it revolting but it was the only place to go.

      Jun 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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