I moved into my neighborhood in Brooklyn just a few weeks after the Starlite Lounge, the cities oldest Black-owned bar, shut down.
Founded on a principle of non-discrimination in 1959, the Starlite Lounge was a cherished meeting place for people of all walks of life and famous for being the oldest Black-owned bar in the heart of Brooklyn. Throughout enormous social change over five decades from civil rights to gay liberation to AIDS activism, the Starlite Lounge has been a fixture and central space in these movements. Just as the Starlite community has been deeply affected by these waves of change, the bar has also felt the impact of rapid gentrification in central Brooklyn. By following the eviction of Brooklyn’s oldest black owned non-discriminating establishment, Starlite illustrates the importance of social spaces in marginalized communities, examines the complexities of gentrification, and demands that the needs and desires of these communities are represented in the redevelopment of their neighborhoods.
The location where the bar used to be is now a MetroPCS. The bar was essentially evicted when the ownership of the building changed hands, a story that is all too common in a rapidly gentrifying city like New York. I had heard stories from friends in the neighborhood about what an amazing place it was, and I’m really sad I never got to experience it firsthand.
There was a huge fight to try and keep Starlite Lounge in its original location, but it was lost. Fortunately, there are people trying to keep the Starlite Lounge alive. A film is in progress that followed the Starlite Lounge owners’ fight to keep Starlite going, as well as the impact that Starlite had on the community over it’s lifetime.
Tis the season for community funded projects, and they have one as well. Luckily, they are only $4,000 away from their $25,000 goal. I supported the project. Check it out and see if you want to chip in and honor the legacy of such an important community space. There is even the possibility of re-opening the bar in a new location in Crown Heights.