San Remo Café

189 Bleecker St New York

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
Written By NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

The first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in New York City, illustrating the richness of the city's history and the community's influence on America.

Overview

The San Remo Café was a Greenwich Village Italian restaurant and bar that became a famous Bohemian hangout in the late 1940s and ’50s. It attracted a mixed Beat and gay clientele that had, among its most prominent patrons, many gay artists, writers, dancers, and actors.

History

The San Remo Café was a working-class Greenwich Village Italian restaurant and bar that operated from about 1925 to 1967. It was located on the ground floor of the tenement building at 189 Bleecker Street, corner of MacDougal Street. Though mob-owned and not especially welcoming, it became a famous Bohemian hangout in the late 1940s and ’50s that attracted a mixed Beat and gay clientele with, among its most prominent patrons, many artists, writers, dancers, and actors. These included such gay and bisexual luminaries as Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, W.H. Auden, Chester Kallman, Harold Norse, John Cage, Larry Rivers, Frank O’Hara, Montgomery Clift, and Merce Cunningham. One of the San Remo’s most famous legends is Vidal picking up Kerouac here, and taking him to the Chelsea Hotel for sex.

The online blog The Last Bohemians indicates that by 1960 the San Remo had a mostly gay clientele, with hustlers from nearby Washington Square, and that “Andy Warhol loved the Remo, and stocked his early Factory with men he found at the bar.” In the 1960s, Edward Albee, Terrence McNally, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns were also known to have frequented the bar. It closed in 1967.

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Building Information

Architect or Builder: John P. Voelker Year Built: 1907

Sources

Dan Foley, “The Ghosts of Greenwich Village #2: The San Remo Café,” The Last Bohemians blog, May 15, 2011, bit.ly/2gL9ksl. Danny Fields, in “Tales From the Warhol Factory,” by Guy Trebay and Ruth La Ferla, The New York Times, November 12, 2018. Jay Shockley, “The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community’s Presence in the South Village,” South Village Historic District Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 2013).

Cover Photo

Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

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