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 buildings were torn down in 1983 due to a street-widening endeavor. 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 and Juanita Bruce Brazier opened Juanita’s next door in 1956. Both owners were straight, but provided their clientele with protection and privacy. Juanita even helped bail out men who were arrested when they were seen being affectionate with each other with no expectation of repayment. Both The Jungle and Juantia’s were a popular place for gay men to meet from the 1960s to the 1980s; this, however, also made the bars a target for police raids. In 1963, 27 men were arrested at Juanita’s for “disorderly conduct,” a charge widely used against the LGBTQ community during this time. While criminal charges could lead to a fine or time spent in jail, the arrests also threatened private lives and careers, as individuals were often “outed” as a result.
Both bars were torn down in 1983,along with the rest of the block during a street-widening project. The historical 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, a Nashville-based 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, a gay rights activist and the plaintiff in the Campbell v. Sundquist Supreme Court case that ultimately decriminalized gay sex in private.
Taylor, Jeff. Nashville Honors Historic Gay Bars Where Men Had to Gather in Secret. Logo NewNowNext. December 07, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019. http://www.newnownext.com/nashville-gay-bars-historical-marker/12/2018/.
Bliss, Jessica. A place 'where you felt safe': Nashville's first gay bars remembered with historical marker. Tennessean. December 06, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/12/06/nashville-gay-bars-historical-marker-jungle-juanitas/2141860002/.
Holt, Jimmy. The Tennessean, The Tennessean. December 06, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/12/06/nashville-gay-bars-historical-marker-jungle-juanitas/2141860002/.
Ciccarone, Erica. Nashville’s First Gay Bars to Be Memorialized With a Historical Marker. Nashville Scene. December 06, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/features/article/21035234/nashvilles-first-gay-bars-to-be-memorialized-with-a-historical-marker.
Sisk, Chas. Nashville Marks A Pair Of Long-Gone Bars, Where Gay Men Once Gathered Secretly. Nashville Public Radio. December 03, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019. https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/nashville-marks-pair-long-gone-bars-where-gay-men-once-gathered-secretly#stream/0.
More of Nashville’s Gay History to Be Recognized. Out and About Nashville. December 03, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019. https://outandaboutnashville.com/more-of-nashvilles-gay-history-to-be-recognized/.
Hilt, Eric. Nashville recognizes city's first gay bars with historical marker. News Channel 5 Nashville. December 14, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/nashville-recognizes-citys-first-gay-bars-with-historical-marker.
Jimmy Holt for The Tennessean.