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America’s Oldest Gay Bar Turns 80, Looks 40

white-horseOakland’s White Horse Bar has been standing at the corner of 66th Street and Telegraph Ave since at least 1933 and this month it celebrates 80 years of fabulous.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Its status as the nation’s oldest gay bar appears to be genuine. Or at least it’s a tie. A gay bar in New Orleans called Cafe Lafitte also opened in 1933, coincidentally, which suggests they were both gay-leaning speakeasies long before they were legal establishments. Cafe Lafitte has moved at least once, but the White Horse has been in the same spot. (No records for the White Horse exist before 1933, although the building looks to be decades older.)

It must be cool at the White Horse now that the SFC has thrown all that shade on it — “decades older”? Backhanded compliments aside, White Horse has managed to survive so long because it flew under the radar — and catered to those who did as well.

“It was very khaki pants and cashmere sweaters and Frank Sinatra and Perry Como back then,” longtime patron Bill Jones recalled. “It was like a private club or lounge. There were paintings on the wall, and the bar would have beautiful bouquets of flowers. They played jazz, musical comedy, stuff like that. I remember it as being very warm, friendly, quiet.”

Politicians and police chose not to enforce anti-gay laws so the bar was never raided; and like many gay bars of the era, the White Horse had no windows to the street until a few years ago. Though it may not have been the scene of any drag queen revolutions, for 80 years the White Horse has been a mainstay in Oakland.

Owned since 2000 by Chuck Davis, White Horse welcomes people of every race, sex, age, and orientation. “We cater to a diverse clientele,” general manager Joey Velez told the Bay Area Reporter. “We are a community-oriented, neighborhood bar.”

And considering they have $3 Long Island Iced Teas, we’d say they’re really doing a remarkable service to the community.

For more on gay bars of olde, do the time warp with Queerty’s historical guides to Los Angeles and San Francisco

By:           Les Fabian Brathwaite
On:           May 15, 2013
Tagged: ,

  • 4 Comments
    • Sammy Schlipshit
      Sammy Schlipshit

      Waaaaay back in the day (late 70’s, early 80’s) I often went to the White Whore, as it was often know.

      Very eclectic crowd while very light on the pretty, expensive dressing, snooty gay men.
      More of just regular guys….but strictly younger men…no elders, few people of color or women which does leave something to be desired.

      The music was great. It had a terrific dance floor second only to The Stud in SF.

      Glad to see it’s still around.

      May 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Billysees
      Billysees

      1933….wow…..that’s going way way back isn’t it ?

      And celebrating 80 years….that’s great.

      May 16, 2013 at 8:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Billysees
    • NickC
      NickC

      It’s great to see such longevity- and a gay bar that looks like a place you would want
      to have a drink in. Living in Cleveland, most of our bars have closed, and most of the
      ones that remain are dives. This is the age of gay progress?

      May 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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