Protests and Boycott at Nite Court Restaurant, 215 N Aurora St

Ithaca LGBTQ History Walking Tour

Protests and Boycott at Nite Court Restaurant, 215 N Aurora St

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services, Ithaca College


On July 7, 1976, the owner of Nite Court Restaurant abruptly turned off the music and turned up the lights. Then he told patrons he had a policy forbidding same sex couples from dancing together or touching each other in the establishment. The reaction was swift.

Within a couple of days, the LGBTQ community began picketing outside in protest of owner Louis Cataldo’s policy prohibiting same sex couples from dancing. Cataldo claimed it would be bad for business because most of his customers would find it “disgusting.”

Street protests and counter protests went on for more than six months. Chants of “Nite Court on Trial!” rang out as police responded to the protests. Marty Brownstein, a Politics professor at Ithaca College at the time, recalls “Things got pretty tense, and semi-violent. This all happened as I was coming out. It was part of my coming out and this was my community.” Brownstein became centrally involved in the conflict, and later served as a mediator between the owner and the LGBTQ community.

A boycott was launched. After contentious campus conversations, the IC Senior Class canceled an event at Cataldo’s establishment, which they had been in the midst of planning. The senior class treasurer explained they canceled “because there seemed a general consensus that people would not go to this party if it were held at Nite Court…that this was the wrong thing to do.”

Stories covering the conflict appeared regularly on the front pages of the student newspapers at Ithaca College, Cornell, and TC3. One Ithacan editorial noted “there is a gross lack of awareness at Ithaca College with regard to race and human sexuality, and the time has come to address this lack of awareness and initiate programs to correct it. Other schools are way ahead of us in this area, and have developed some interesting programs which Ithaca College should consider.” An Ithacan reporter wrote: “Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the party incident is the one that makes a comment about Ithaca College students: if Nite Court was discriminating against women, blacks, or Jews, having a party there would be the last thing anyone would think of doing.” Several gay students shared their experiences of having been kicked out of Nite Court earlier for simply having their arm around their date or for touching their shoulder. After the New York State Department of Human Rights ruled that there was probable cause that Nite Court had engaged in unlawful discrimination, an agreement was reached in February 1977 and the protests and boycott ended.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Ithaca LGBTQ History Walking Tour


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