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Black Cat Tavern

Coordinates: 34°05′32″N 118°16′47″W / 34.0921°N 118.2798°W / 34.0921; -118.2798
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Black Cat Tavern
Location3909 W Sunset Blvd
Coordinates34°05′32″N 118°16′47″W / 34.0921°N 118.2798°W / 34.0921; -118.2798
Architectural style(s)Art Deco
Governing bodyprivate
Reference no.939
Black Cat Tavern is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Black Cat Tavern
Location of Black Cat Tavern in the Los Angeles metropolitan area

The Black Cat Tavern is an LGBT historic site located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. In 1967, it was the site of one of the first demonstrations in the United States protesting police brutality against LGBT people, preceding the Stonewall riots by over two years.[3]


The bar was established in November 1966; two months later, on New Year's Eve, several plainclothes Los Angeles Police Department officers infiltrated the tavern.[4]

According to local gay newspaper Tangents, "the Black Cat was happy and hopping" before undercover police arrived and started beating patrons as they were ringing in the New Year: "There were colored balloons covering the ceiling ... and three glittering Christmas trees."[5] Moments later, "all hell broke loose."[5] After arresting several patrons for kissing as they celebrated the occasion,[6] the undercover police officers began beating several of the patrons[7] and ultimately arrested fourteen patrons for "assault and public lewdness".[8] Two bartenders were beaten unconscious.[9] Two patrons fled to another gay bar, New Faces, but they were followed by police and arrested. The officers mistook the manager, a woman named Lee Roy, for a man (named "Leroy") wearing a dress, and beat her severely.[10]

Contrary to popular myth, there was not a riot at the Black Cat, but a civil demonstration of 200 attendees to protest the raids was held on February 11, 1967. Demonstrators used "secret phone trees to organize the event" which led to hundreds of people demonstrating and coming to the event.[11] The demonstration was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), founded by Steve Ginsberg, and the SCCRH (Southern California Council on Religion and Homophile).[8] The protest was met by squadrons of armed policemen.[4] Demonstrators carefully adhered to all laws and ordinances so that the police had no legitimate reasons to make arrests.[10] The event was the first organized public LGBTQ protest in Los Angeles, and one of the earliest and largest in the country.[10]This occurred during the governorship of Ronald Reagan, under which a Law and Order mentality reigned and police brutality was systemic.[12]

Two of the men arrested for kissing were later convicted under California Penal Code Section 647 and registered as sex offenders.[8] The men appealed, asserting their right of equal protection under the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court did not accept their case.[3] However, there were fundraising efforts that reached New York and San Francisco for the six convicted patrons, including Benny Baker and Charles Talley.


The raid and subsequent protests inspired publication of The Advocate, which began as a newspaper for the group PRIDE.[13] The January 1967 raid on the Black Cat Tavern and the August 1968 raid on The Patch together inspired the formation of the Metropolitan Community Church (led by Pastor Troy Perry).[14][15]

For some time "the Stonewall riots became central to gay collective memory while other events did not."[16] By pointing to critical moments in LGBT history that took place before 1969, historians continue to challenge the notion that the events at the Stonewall Inn marked the very first time LGBT folks "fought back instead of passively enduring humiliating treatment."[16] Indeed, the 1959 Cooper Donuts Riot[17] and the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot predate the incidents at The Black Cat.

On November 7, 2008, the Black Cat site was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.[8][18]

In 2014, queer Chicana artist Alma López and students in her "Queer Art in LA" class at UCLA painted a mural depicting the protests. The mural is located in the LGBTQ Studies offices in Haines Hall on the UCLA campus.[19]

On November 14, 2017, the KCET documentary series Lost L.A. included interviews, footage, news coverage, and primary documents about the raid and protests in its episode "Coded Geographies", which situates the November 1966 incident and subsequent protests within the broader LGBTQ culture of Los Angeles.[20] In 2017, a reenactment of the original protest took place on the 50th anniversary of the original protest. There were over one hundred participants, including LA mayor Eric Garcetti, and Alexei Ramanoff who was involved in the original organization of the 1967 protests. People brought signs that reproduced the original signs from the protest.[21] The Black Cat Tavern has recently received state recognition as an official cultural history site.[22]

Present day[edit]

After operating as a gay bar under several names (most recently Le Barcito catering to the Latino community), in November 2012 the site became a restaurant and bar named The Black Cat in memory of the earlier establishment. The new Black Cat caters to a general clientele, and there are photographs of the events of 1967 displayed inside.[23] in 2008, the city of LA Cultural Heritage Commission installed a plaque on the building where the original Black Cat Tavern resided, recognizing it as the site of the first LGBTQ civil rights demonstration in the nation.[24] In 2021, the ANSWER Coalition organized a march that started at the original Black Cat Tavern. The march advocated for an end to police brutality, racism, homophobia and trans-violence and for Gay rights. The Tavern was chosen for the starting point because it is widely considered to be the first site of protest for gay rights.[25]


  1. ^ Department of City Planning. "Designated Historic-Cultural Monuments". City of Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
  2. ^ Office of Historic Resources, Newsletter, January 2009 Archived 2010-04-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b Gay LA, Page 157, Authors Faderman & Timmons, University of California Press, copyright 2006
  4. ^ a b "Speaking Out". Johnrechy.com. Archived from the original on 2015-12-12. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  5. ^ a b Baldwin, Belinda. "L.A., 1/1/67: the Black Cat riots." The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 13.2 (2006): 28+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
  6. ^ "Timeline of Homosexual History, 1961 to 1979". Tangentgroup.org. Archived from the original on 2014-05-11. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  7. ^ "Press Release regarding the 1966 raid on the Black Cat bar". The Tangent Group. Archived from the original on 2015-04-27. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  8. ^ a b c d HCM No. 939, 2009 Newsletter.pdf City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning, "Los Angeles' Newest Historic-Cultural Monuments", January 2009 v.3, no. 1, p. 6.Archived 2014-06-22 at archive.today
  9. ^ Jean, Lorri L. (2019-06-23). "Op-Ed: Stonewall was important, but the LGBT movement's L.A. roots were essential". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2022-04-27. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  10. ^ a b c "LGBTQ History in Los Angeles: Cooper Do-Nuts and Black Cat Tavern". www.laalmanac.com. Archived from the original on 2022-06-10. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  11. ^ Branson-Potts, Hailey (2017-02-08). "Before Stonewall, there was the Black Cat; LGBTQ leaders to mark 50th anniversary of protests at Silver Lake tavern". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2022-10-26. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  12. ^ "LGBTQ History in Los Angeles: Cooper Do-Nuts and Black Cat Tavern". www.laalmanac.com. Archived from the original on 2022-06-10. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  13. ^ Gay LA, Page 159, Authors Faderman & Timmons, University of California Press, copyright 2006
  14. ^ Gay LA, Page 163, Authors Faderman & Timmons, University of California Press, copyright 2006
  15. ^ "Letters from Camp Rehoboth - September 14, 2007 - PAST Out". Archived from the original on May 18, 2008.
  16. ^ a b Armstrong, E. A., and S. M. Crage. "Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth." American Sociological Review 71.5 (2006): 724-51. Web.
  17. ^ Lilly, Christiana (30 September 2016). "Los Angeles' Cooper Donuts gay riots sparked a revolution 10 years before Stonewall". The Pride LA. Archived from the original on 26 June 2022. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  18. ^ "News article". Los Angeles Times (print ed.). November 8, 2008.
  19. ^ Wolf, Jessica (July 17, 2017). "The Evolution of LGBTQ Studies at UCLA". UCLA Newsroom. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "Lost LA, Coded Geographies Season 2 Episode 6". KCET. 2017-11-14. Archived from the original on 2022-06-28. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  21. ^ Eastsider, The (11 February 2017). "Silver Lake remembers The Black Cat protests". The Eastsider LA. Archived from the original on 2022-10-26. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  22. ^ "The Black Cat in Silver Lake, 'where pride began,' gets historic state recognition". Daily News. 2023-10-02. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  23. ^ "A new (fancy) life for Silver Lake's Black Cat Tavern". The Eastsider LA. 10 October 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  24. ^ "The Black Cat | One Archives". one.usc.edu. Archived from the original on 2022-10-26. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  25. ^ Staff, Liberation. "Los Angeles community members march for LGBTQ liberation – Liberation News". Archived from the original on 2022-10-26. Retrieved 2022-10-26.