Historic Gay Landmark May Retain Some Gay Roots
January 1, 1967—two years before the Stonewall uprising: Members of the Los Angeles Police Department descended upon the Black Cat Tavern, a local gay bar in LA's Silver Lake neighborhood. Officers assaulted and arrested thirteen patrons and three bartenders. In response to the unprovoked raid, a gay advocacy group called PRIDE—Personal Rights in Defense and Education—organized the Black Cat Protest, a demonstration that drew over 200 attendees. Out of this event grew a publication by gay people, for gay people, and that publication became The Advocate.
The Black Cat Tavern closed and was reborn many times, with names like Tabasco's, Basgo's, Bushewacker's, Club F**K, and most recently Le Barcito. The site was named a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument on November 7, 2008 and the original sign depicting a black and white cat is still posted on the building today. At the end of last year it was rumored that the owners of a popular LA eatery and tavern, The Village Idiot, were buying the property to develop another restaurant. Those rumors proved true, and now it looks like the new owners are thinking of honoring the bulding's gay history.
According to local blog The Eastsider LA, the Le Barcito sign has been removed but the smiling image of a black cat— a hold over from the old bar that has remained in place all these years— is still situated at the top of the sign. Adding to the mystery, the state alcohol license application that the new owners filed says the business name is "Black Cat." The site reports:
Wes Joe, a Silver Lake resident who worked on the Black Cat historic monument application, said the new owners told him they were looking into the rights to use the Black Cat name. He said there was also a discussion about retaining what is presumed to be the original stand up bar over which two Black Cat bartenders were violently dragged over by LAPD officers, Joe said. Keeping that bar would help “tell the story” of the bar and the era, he said.
So far the owners have not commented on these developments.
Photo: Sarah Dryden, The Eastsider LA