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Stonewall Rioted, FBI Yawned

Weeks after police raid, agent’s report takes no note of days of unrest

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Just 10 days after a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn sparked several days of rioting in the West Village, an FBI agent had news about Matthew Ianniello, the owner of that bar and a member of the Genovese crime family.

“Ianniello fag or queer club operations on the Lower East Side have been virtually closed down by the NYCPD over the last month,” the agent wrote in a July 12, 1969 memo documenting two conversations with the informant. “He lost two main after hours clubs, The Stonewall and the 123 Club were closed for illegal sale of alcohol.”

The agent, whose name is blacked out in the document, either did not know of the June 1969 riots or did not think they were worth mentioning. The informant supplied the names of five other “homosexual or lesbian after hours clubs” — the 12th of Never, the Rat Race, the Tel Star, the Show Place, and the Nautilus Club.

Documents contained in 1,600 pages of FBI records that Gay City News obtained under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the bureau had been investigating Ianniello since at least 1964 and had known since at least 1967 that he owned the Stonewall Inn. On June 17, 1968, an informant told the FBI that the 123 Club and the Stonewall, “both ‘fag’ joints… allegedly pay off heavily to NYCPD in the amount of $1500 to $1600 per month.”

In a May 29, 1970 memo, an agent recounts the recent history of the Stonewall Inn from the FBI’s perspective. It was closed in 1969 for the “illegal sale of alcohol,” an agent wrote. In contacts with the State Liquor Authority, two informants, and surveillance of the bar, the agent reported no activity.

“In view of the above information indicating that the Stonewall Inn is no longer in existence, it is recommended that this case be closed administra­tively,” the agent wrote.

An August 16, 1977 memo suggests that the FBI visited the location at least one more time. A cross reference in Ianniello’s main FBI file has a “183” code for a Racketeer, Influence and Corrupt Organizations investigation and the name “Bagel Nosh.” That is the name of the restaurant that replaced the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street.

Updated 2:40 pm, August 30, 2018
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