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Local authorities probably were willing to tolerate the bars there because the surrounding area was “run down,” on the edge of a slum clearance zone, and at a distance from where most of the city’s financially secure, white families lived.
Still, the police did sometimes raid the bars and harass their employees and customers.
For some, the bars on Olive marked the eastern border of the “gay ghetto.” In these years, popular nightspots on the block included the Golden Gate Bar (later the Golden Gate Coffee House), Shelley’s (also called the Midway and Gus’), Act IV Coffee House, and the Onyx Room.
Other LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly bars, restaurants, and coffeehouses were on nearby blocks.
This is the first known public protest by gay activists in the history of St. The Mandrake Society assisted with bail, then hired a lawyer who later convinced a judge to drop the charges.
This was a crucial early victory for the local gay and lesbian rights movement and contributed to a flowering of LGBTQ activism in St. In part, this was because the bars there lost customers to new establishments in the Central West End and in other parts of the St. At the same time, the city’s movers-and-shakers were increasingly eyeing Grand Center as a possible locus of redevelopment.
The Mandrake Society—a gay rights group founded in the Central West End the previous April—sprang into action that night.
Spreading word of the incident by phone, members of the Mandrake Society and other supporters gathered at police headquarters downtown and demanded that those arrested be released.
I graduated in a wedding dress, attended debutante balls, and had a near-constant Frappuccino as part of my polo-khaki-skirt uniform. In my youth, it seemed dangerous and full of broken metal things. The East held gang violence and puddles with needles, and the West was a Shirley Temple at the racquet club and an outing on horseback.
Some sources suggest that police officers also collected bribes from bar owners.
In “Sporadic bar raids, rare corner warnings just to look good, beat cops walking heavy-footed by both corners most the time not bothering anybody, just dirty looks as they go into Shelley’s and the Gate, sashay out in a few minutes with fat envelopes.
By the close of 1980, all the bars on the block had gone out of businesses, and most of the buildings there had been demolished to make way for the construction of a new state office building.
More than four decades of LGBTQ nightlife at Grand and Olive had come to an end. Researchers' Publications Walt Reed Illustration Archive Washington University William H.