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The Stonewall Inn in New York City was the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which have come to symbolize the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement in the United States. A gay bar is a drinking establishment that caters to an exclusively or predominantly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clientele; the term gay is used as a broadly inclusive concept for LGBT and queer communities.

In Cannes, France, such a bar had already opened in 1885, and there were many more in Berlin around 1900.The club provided a solid model for future nightclubs.After homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK in 1967, gay bar culture became more visible and gradually Soho became the centre of the London LGBT community, which was "firmly established" by the early 1990s.Within a few weeks after the Nazis took over government in 1933, fourteen of the best known gay establishments were closed.After homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, many gay bars opened in West Berlin, resulting in a lively gay scene.In the 1960s their number grew rapidly and they clustered in and around a number of streets, although this was limited to bars, clubs and shops and they never became residential areas for gays, like the gay villages in the US.

Since the late 1950s the main Amsterdam gay street was Kerkstraat, which was succeeded by Reguliersdwarsstraat in the early 1980s, when the first openly gay places opened here, like the famous cafe April in 1981, followed by dancing Havana in 1989.

The first gay bar in Britain in the modern sense was The Cave of the Golden Calf, established as a night club in London.

It opened in an underground location at 9 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street, in 1912 and became a haunt for the wealthy, aristocratic and bohemian.

The White Swan (created by James Cook and Yardley, full name unknown), on Vere Street, in London, England, was raided in 1810 during the so-called Vere Street Coterie.

The raid led to the executions of John Hepburn and Thomas White for sodomy.

The place was opened in 1885 and existed for 125 years, before it was closed in December 2010.