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Upper West Side's 'Only' Gay Bar Closing After Nearly 50 Years

By Emily Frost | June 12, 2015 5:35pm | Updated on June 15, 2015 8:47am
 The longtime neighborhood institution is closing after the owner sold the building. 
Candle Bar Closing at the End of June
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Candle Bar, the neighborhood's oldest gay bar — and some argue the oldest in the city — is closing at the end of the month. 

The Amsterdam Avenue bar opened in the mid-1960s, and some people argue it has had its license and been openly gay longer than Julius, a West Village gay bar that claims to be the oldest in the city.

Candle Bar's closing marks the end of an era for the regulars who frequented the neighborhood spot. The bar will close its doors on June 22. 

The dive bar, near West 75th Street, has stuck around despite rising rents and changes along the avenue because the building owner also operated the business, said the bar's manager Amonte Demarko, 37, who described it as the "only" gay bar in the neighborhood.  

Robert Ader bought the four-story building at 309 Amsterdam Ave. in 1985; when he died, his sister Michelle Ader took over the management. 

But Ader has sold the building, which was listed for $6.95 million and the new owner is not interested in keeping Candle Bar open, said Demarko, who regretted that the bar couldn't be saved.

"It's like a gay 'Cheers,'" Demarko told DNAinfo New York.

Demarko arrived at Candle Bar as a bartender at age 23 and quickly moved up to manager. The bar, which opens in the late afternoon or early evening depending on the day, often stays open until 4 a.m., its official closing time, he said. 

On certain nights, like when the Allman Brothers came to town or there was overflow from the Beacon Theatre, you wouldn't know it was a gay bar, he said.

However, "90 percent of the business is from [gay] regulars," many of whom are now older and have been coming to the bar for decades — a group that is "family to each other," he said. 

"Where are they going to go?" he wondered.

The closest gay bars are Suite, which opened in recent years, on West 109th Street in Mahattan Valley or the gay bars in Hell's Kitchen.

Fans of Candle Bar, originally known as Candlelight Lounge, should anticipate closing weekend parties June 19 through 21, said Demarko.