One of New York City's nightlife landmarks, and a rite of passage for many black LGBTs, may disappear. The Starlite Lounge is New York City's first black-owned gay bar, the oldest gay bar in Brooklyn and reportedly the oldest black gay bar in the United States. The bar may be forced to close following the sale of its building at the corner of Bergen Street and Nostrand Avenue, Gothamist reports.
The Starlite Lounge has been a Crown Heights fixture since the 1960s, serving gays and non-gays. In recent years, the venue has become a destination for neighborhood folks looking for a casual daytime hangout, as well as revelers who frequent the dance parties and karaoke nights, according to [Starlite Lounge manager Tim Leviticus]. "No one in the neighborhood is happy about it because this is the only place where they can come to relax," he added.
Starlite Lounge manager Tim Leviticus told Gothamist that the future of the watering hole at the corner of Bergen Street and Nostrand Avenue is uncertain at best. "Without us knowing, the old landlord sold the building — not even giving us the right to purchase it," he said. "We haven't met the new owner yet, but we've heard he wants the building to be empty."
The Starlite is an institution in Brooklyn's black gay community. When I first moved to New York City in 2000 and lived in Fort Greene, the bar was a few train stops away. The drinks were strong, the music was killer and there was no telling who you 'd see there. Martha Wash might be sitting at the bar, singing a few bars. Andre Leon Talley and fashion models rubbed shoulders with neighborhood drag queens. Oh and always fierce neighborhood trade. In the late 1990s to mid 2000s, a trio of sisters tended bar at the Starlite. The Lenear Sisters opened their Bed-Stuy brownstone to black LGBT youth who needed a place to crash. Their weekend-long New Year's Eve parties were legendary.
The bar owners hope to landmark the building and save it. There is a petition circulating in Brooklyn and online.