The Black Cat: 50 Years After LAPD Raid

Protesters outside the Black Cat Tavern in 1967.

Protesters outside the Black Cat Tavern in 1967.

SILVER LAKE—This New Year’s Eve will mark 50 years since Los Angeles police raided The Black Cat bar and arrested several gay men who were seen kissing as the clock struck midnight. Just over a month after that event, a protest was held that is considered was the first gay rights demonstration in the country.

“Site of the first documented LGBT civil rights demonstration in the nation,” a sign outside the bar reads. “Held on February 11, 1967.”

Many people think the Stonewall riots in 1969, which happened at The Stonewall Inn in New York City, were the first gay demonstration in the country. However, the peaceful protest at The Black Cat in Silver Lake happened two years prior, according to the website “Thirsty In LA.”

The bar has changed hands many times and gone by many names since it was the original Black Cat in the 1960s. None of the current owners are gay, but they felt preserving a piece of Los Angeles’ history was important.

The bar has been owned since 2011 by Lindsay Kennedy, 47, Charlie Conrad, 51, and Dean Malous, 47.

“The history of that place. It was obvious that was something the landlord wanted to honor,” Kennedy said adding he and his partners feel similarly.

The city of Los Angeles declared the bar a landmark in 2008, which went into effect in 2014.

“I think we’re attracted to the idea of preserving any important history in L.A.,” Kennedy said. “My sense is L.A. tends to, at least in the development world, certainly wipe away anything architectural or historic in the name of progress or something, which usually just means a mini-mall.”

Kennedy has been in Los Angeles for 40 years, but he said he doesn’t have many memories of the The Black Cat.

He did say he sometimes has older residents come in and talk about the history of the place—particularly its connection to gay culture.

The Black Cat shut down shortly after the raid in 1967, because it was no longer a discrete place for gay men to go, as it had been for year before.

Kennedy said The Black Cat that lives today is a bar for people from all walks of life. He said he supports the gay community and everyone else too.

“It’s a place where everyone is welcome,” he said.

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