OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — One of the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ+ bars in the country is located in Oakland. The White Horse Bar just celebrated its 90th anniversary last month.
The bar has a new owner who hopes to continue to build its legacy.
“It was a safe place then, it’s a safe place now,” said owner Patty Dingle.
The White Horse on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland poured its first drink in 1933. Since then, it’s continued to be safe haven for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
“From what I read it’s never been raided,” Dingle said.
Police raids targeted gay and lesbian bars in the Bay Area starting in the 1950s. In the early ’60s, police shut down nearly half the gay bars — but the White Horse stayed open.
It would be another 30 years before new owner Dingle would discover the LGBTQ+ sanctuary.
“I used to come here, in the ’90s on Thursday nights,” said Dingle. “This place has brought back a lot of great memories for me. When I first came out this was the place where I felt super safe.”
Dingle just acquired the bar in December. She always knew she wanted to own a bar. When she retired, she decided to find the perfect one.
When the White Horse became available, she jumped on the opportunity to continue the legacy of one of the longest continuously operating LGBTQ+ bars in the country.
“There’s a big history here and I’m super proud to be part of that history,” Dingle said.
Dennise Acio is the bar manager. While she just started in the position when Dingle bought the bar, she’s been a part of White Horse much longer.
“Since the 2000s, when I first moved to California and I was a gay-by,” said Acio.
Acio moved from Hawaii and was searching for a community. Now, she helps create that community for others.
“I’m really grateful,” she said, “to be in a place like the White Horse. I just feel like I’m supposed to be here and it’s a blessing.”
Dingle says she strives to make the bar inclusive for everyone.
“We often talk about LGBT, this is also for the Q, the I, the A,” she said.
She says while she wishes the LGBTQ+ community was accepted everywhere, that’s not the case. But the White Horse will continue to set the standard.
“We have to have these spaces because people are still not comfortable holding their partners’ hand in public,” Dingle said. “People are still not comfortable coming out to their families. If people come here and it’s that one time they feel they can be free and know they’re going to feel valued and loved when they walk through these doors.”