Man charged with bias attack at noted NYC gay bar

A man spat anti-gay and racist insults as he hit a patron at one of the city's oldest gay bars, authorities said Monday, adding to a string of recent cases that have amplified alarm about gay-bashing and bullying here and elsewhere.

The man was hit Oct. 11 at Julius, a tavern where a 1966 "sip-in" marked an early moment in the gay-rights movement, police and prosecutors said.

The victim was trying to defuse a dispute between Frederick Giunta and another customer, police said. Giunta responded by hitting the victim in the face, disparaging his race and using an anti-gay epithet, authorities said. The victim is black.

Giunta left the bar and was arrested Friday at his Queens home, police said.

Giunta, 45, was being held Monday on $25,000 bail after a weekend arraignment on assault as a hate crime and attempted robbery charges. The second stems from allegations that he tried to steal a man's wallet and punched him at another bar earlier on Oct. 11.

His lawyer didn't immediately respond to a telephone message, and no phone number could be found for his home.

The allegations confounded and outraged gay-rights advocates, already dismayed by a series of high-profile cases apparently fueled by anti-gay sentiment.

"It is unacceptable that perpetrators of anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) violence feel emboldened to come into any neighborhood, including gay-friendly neighborhoods, and attack LGBTQ people because of who we are," said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. The group works to combat attacks on gays and others.

The alleged attack at Julius unfolded little more than a week after two men were accused of a gay-bashing beating at the Stonewall Inn, a bar and gay-rights landmark about a block away. The same day as the Stonewall Inn incident, Bronx gang members beat and tortured four people in an anti-gay rage, authorities said; 11 people have been arrested so far in what officials called one of the worst cases of anti-gay violence in recent memory.

A day earlier, a group of male friends bidding an affectionate good night to each other were attacked in an anti-gay assault in Manhattan's gay-friendly Chelsea neighborhood, prosecutors said.

And on Sept. 22, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, killed himself after his gay sexual encounter in his dorm room was broadcast online. His roommate and another Rutgers student have been charged with invasion of privacy, and authorities are weighing whether bias crime charges should be added.

Julius has been a gay gathering place since the 1950s, according to its website. In 1966, several gay-rights activists went there and ordered drinks — with journalists in tow — to protest liquor regulators' policies against serving gays.

The "sip-in" contributed to changes that ultimately allowed gay bars to operate openly. Three years later, Stonewall Inn patrons' resistance to a police raid became a formative moment in the gay rights movement.

Julius' website stresses that it welcomes "ALL visitors and locals," a message owner Helen Buford underscored in a statement Monday.

Noting that staffers had been briefed on security after the Oct. 11 episode, she said she wanted "to reassure the community that this remains a safe and fun place to be."