The Jungle and Juanita Gay Bars Historical Marker
This historical marker shares the history of the Jungle Cocktail Lounge and Juanita's, Nashville's first bars that openly catered to gay clientele. The pair were a popular place for gay men to meet from the 1960s to the 1980s. The Jungle included a grill and was patronized by diverse clientele who enjoyed the convenient location and saw the Jungle primarily as a place for a quick lunch. In the evening however, the Jungle was a bar that primarily served as a safe place for gay men to meet and socialize in the evening. Both bars were torn down in 1983 because when the block was demolished to make the street wider. The marker was erected on December 7, 2018, at the same location the establishments stood before they were demolished. At the time of this entry's publication, the marker is only the second to honor Nashville’s LGBTQ+ history.
Backstory and Context
Warren Jet opened The Jungle in 1953. Juanita Bruce Brazier opened Juanita’s opened next door to it in 1956. Both owners were straight, but they both protected their guests and their privacy. Juanita even helped bail out men who were thrown in jail when they were seen being affectionate with each other. She didn’t expect to be repaid. They were a popular place for gay men to meet from the 1960s to the 1980s, however, they were also targeted by police, because gay acts in public were warranted for arrest.
The Jungle was a one-room club, and Juanita’s was small as well with only a small group of tables. At Juanita’s in 1963, 27 men were arrested for disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct was charge police used to arrest a gay man who wasn’t doing anything wrong. In contrast, non-LGBTQ+ individuals frequented both locations during the day. For example, government employees went to the Jungle for lunch.
Both bars were torn down in 1983 because the block was demolished to make the street wider. However, other gay bars were openly operating as LGBTQ+ friendly spaces. The marker was erected on December 7, 2018, at the same location the establishments stood before they were demolished. The effort to erect the historical marker was led by John Bridges, who is a Nashville writer. "This was a place that people went to because they didn't have anywhere else to go," John Bridges said.
The marker was funded by the Metro Historical Commission and the H. Franklin Brooks Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. This is only the second marker to be erected that honors Nashville’s LGBTQ+ history. The first historical marker to honor LGBTQ+ history was in memory of Penny Campbell, who was a gay rights activist and the plaintiff in the Campbell v. Sundquist Supreme Court case that ultimately decriminalized gay sex in private.
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