A community effort spearheaded by three gay businessmen in Manhattan’s West Village has saved the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement.
In June 1969, the denizens of Manhattan’s run-down Stonewall Inn finally stood up for their rights and rioted, tired of years of police harassment.
The events of those sultry summer nights ignited a power-keg, and the explosion was heard around the world.
Within 12 months there were gay rights movements organising and protesting across the globe.
The venue where it all began has seen many changes. Not least in its surroundings.
For what was once a refuge for drag queens, drug dealers and other outcasts has become a gentrified New York neighbourhood.
In recent times the Stonewall Inn has fallen on hard times, but PinkNews.co.uk can exclusively reveal that three gay entrepreneurs are at the centre of a successful campaign to save the bar.
Bill Morgan and Tony DeCicco, who own the Duplex bar in the West Village, along with village fixture Kurt Kelly, were moved to act when they heard about the imminent closure of the Inn.
Bill Morgan told PinkNews.co.uk what happened next.
“We spoke with the landlord and let them know that we were interested in keeping the Stonewall as it has such an important place in both the West Village and in gay rights history.
“While negotiating with the landlord we were simultaneously seeking out investors. We weren’t sure at the beginning if anyone would be interested.
“While the Stonewall is an historic site, the place had been allowed to fall into disrepair in the last several years and the clientele had fallen off.
“The club had been mismanaged and had become a ‘bad neighbour’ in the community due to excessive noise, underage people being served and after-hours business being conducted.”
Mr Morgan appealed to New Yorkers for help to save this historic site, and was overwhelmed by the response.
“When we went looking for investors to save The Stonewall people came out of the woodwork. Gay and straight.
“Everyone recognised the potential loss to the community both here and the gay community worldwide.
“A few of the investors have been volunteering their time and labour to defray the cost of renovating.”
The bar had changed hands several times since the riots of 1969. The Village itself has undergone a slow but permanent transformation from dive to desirable.
Now the gay community has succeeded in scrubbing up the Stonewall Inn. Bill Morgan seems to have taken a very gay delight at renovating the historic venue.
“The walls on the main floor were covered in a shiny chrome sheeting known as diamond plate. That was covering up the old raised wood panelling.
“The beautiful wooden bar was painted a garish green and gold. There was every kind of electrical and speaker wire you can imagine snaking everywhere along the old original tin ceiling.
“Holes in the roof where water had poured in and subsequently caved in the bathroom ceiling. You get the idea,” he told PinkNews.co.uk
Other prominent gay New Yorkers have also lent a hand, “We have enlisted the services of designer Michael Longo who has a long history with the Village and Stonewall and has designed several other bars in the past.
“He is bringing fresh innovative ideas to the space that will help improve the look and feel of it while making the guests aware that they are in an historic spot. It is really very exciting.”
The best efforts of Mr Morgan and others have revitalised the Stonewall Inn. And as for the accusations that the Village is now too gentrified to truly be a home for the whole gay community, Mr Morgan dismisses such concerns.
“The Monster, a club across the street from Stonewall does a thriving business catering to an equally diverse crowd and has nothing but great reviews from the neighbourhood because they run their business in a way that respects others in the neighbourhood.
“The Village is born of diversity. It is why I work here. It is why gay people sought the Village out to begin with. To imply that the Village residents or members of the gay community are discriminating against others based on ethnicity is nonsense.
“It wasn’t true back in the day and it’s not true now. It is a very live and let live attitude here. All the residents ask is that their quality of life to be respected.”
Pending the approval of a liquor licence, the Stonewall Inn should be opening its doors for business on February 1st.