April 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm EDT | by Steve Charing
Leon’s bar in Baltimore celebrates 60 years
Leon's Bar, gay news, Washington Blade

Leon’s in Mount Vernon turns 60. (Photo by Steve Charing)

Rebounding from Baltimore gay bar closings in recent years, 2017 is proving to be significant in altering the trend. The refurbished Baltimore Eagle opened its doors after a nearly five-year hiatus. Grand Central celebrated its 25th anniversary. And the new G•A•Y Lounge on Charles Street will be opening this weekend.

And another milestone is taking place this year. Leon’s, the oldest active gay bar in Baltimore, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Situated at 870 Park Ave. in the Mount Vernon neighborhood and known for its packed Sunday happy hours, Leon’s has a storied past, including visits from such celebrities as Liberace and Joan Rivers. Its companion bar Steampunk Alley on Chase Street, with a passageway connecting the two, had a number of identities over the years including Tyson’s Place restaurant.

“In the 1890s, the bar was called Georgia’s Tap Room,” wrote Richard Oloizia on BaltimoreHeritage.org. The bar’s current name comes from Leon Lampe, who owned the bar during the 1930s, Oloizia explains.

“During Prohibition, the bar survived as a speakeasy and, after WWII, became a hangout for beatniks and artists with a mix of gay and straight patrons. Since 1957, Leon’s has operated as a gay bar.”

Oloizia points out that in its early days, to enter the bar, patrons had to use the password phrase, “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” a common identifier for gay men at the time.

No specific event to mark the 60-year mark has been announced, but sources told the Blade that an event is likely to take place in conjunction with Pride week in mid-June.

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