South Holland’s Black Cat Lounge was a hangout for Beats and bohemians during its second run, but it gradually began to attract a gay clientele, becoming a flashpoint for what was then known as the homophile movement, a predecessor to the gay liberation movement that gained pace in the 1960s.
The Black Cat Lounge was at the center of a legal battle that was one of the first in the United States to create legal safeguards for LGBT people. Despite this triumph, the club was forced to close in 1964 because to ongoing pressure from law enforcement organizations. Although the Beats continued to gather at the Black Cat until the 1950s, the years immediately after World War II saw an increase in the number of LGBT customers who frequented the establishment. Allen Ginsberg, a gay Beat poet, described the Black Cat as a place where “various crowds mixed together.” “the top gay hangout in the United States. It was completely accepting of all sexual orientations, bohemian, and located in San Francisco… and everyone went there, even heterosexuals and homosexuals….
All of the straight men in gray flannel suits and the longshoremen would show up, along with all of the gay shouting queens. There were a lot of poets there.” By 1951, the bar had been included on the list of establishments that the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board deemed to be inappropriate for service members to enter.
After the end of the prohibition era in 1933, the Black Cat reopened its doors at 710 Montgomery Street, and Ridley was the proprietor of the establishment once more. In the 1940s, Sol Stoumen bought the pub for himself. In the early years of Stoumen’s ownership of the Black Cat, it served as a gathering place for bohemians and members of the Beat generation. William Saroyan and John Steinbeck were known to frequent the establishment, and Jack Kerouac’s iconic Beat novel On the Road devotes a portion of the story to the pub as a setting.