\u201cThe White Horse was the sort of place you might go after a day of tanning by Lake Temescal with the boys, or having brunch at this lesbian and gay hangout, Grandma's House,\u201d says Jim Gebbie. A 78-year-old writer and editor who came to San Francisco in the heady late 1960s, he remembers sometimes crossing the Bay during the \u201970s to go there.\r\n\r\n\u201cMaybe you'd end up there if you wanted to meet a Cal student, or if you were tired of the crowd at your usual San Francisco places,\u201d he says. \u201cThe White Horse was never the \u2018it\u2019 place, it just was always there.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cAlways there\u201d is perhaps just the right description for the White Horse Inn in Oakland, California. It persisted while other flashier, more niche bars have fizzled out. In doing so, it has earned the title of the nation's oldest LGBTQ bar that has operated in the same place.\r\n\r\nOpened in 1933 on Telegraph Avenue, the University of California, Berkeley's campanile is visible from its entry. It kept a low profile from the get-go, with no windows on its ground floor.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe bar was somehow never raided in the years when cops busted down the doors routinely of such establishments to make arrests and, as often as not, publish the names of those found inside. Even with its raid-free history, one longtime patron, Betty Boreen, recently said that in her nearly 50 years of going there, she always kept one eye on the door.\r\n\r\nThe White Horse has been on its own journey to liberation in its nearly nine decades. Its first owner, Abraham Karski, was a family man who also opened another Oakland landmark, the Grand Lake Theater, and an actual hotspot, the see-and-be-seen Leamington Hotel.\r\n\r\nThe early years at the White Horse were decorous ones, with flowers on its long bar and jazz standards in the air. It had a mixed clientele and a no-touching policy. A straight male owner would demonstrate, sometimes with a ruler, the appropriate distance he expected clients to keep between each other. It was social distancing avant la lettre.\r\n\r\nIf the bar's willingness to serve LGBTQ clients was a closely guarded secret at first, its reputation was established by the World War II years. Here gathered soldiers, sailors and stevedores, as well as riveting Rosies who worked in the shipyards and nurses that who worked at the military hospitals.\r\n\r\nBut it wasn't until the early 1970s that the bar truly came into the light. The White Horse's owners refused to distribute an early liberationist publication, Gay Sunshine, and continued to ban public displays of same-sex affection on the premises. The LGBTQ community boycotted the bar, redirecting would-be patrons to raucous, anything-goes parties at an apartment building across the way.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe owners ultimately capitulated to activist demands, and since then the White Horse has mourned openly the LBGTQ community's losses and celebrated its victories.\r\n\r\nAt the height of the North American AIDS crisis, the bar lost eight bartenders in just one year. After the Russian government banned speech about homosexuality in 2013, the bar stopped serving vodka from there.\r\n\r\nWhen activists and lawyers, at last, won the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, it was here that some couples elected to recite their vows on the bar's small dance floor, as the disco ball rotated above their heads. In 2018, attendees at a block party repainted the crosswalks across Telegraph in rainbow colors to signal the bar's central role in LBGTQ movement.\r\n\r\nSince its Depression-era founding, the White Horse has morphed from what one patron described as a khakis-and-cashmere-sweater place into one with a more \u201cdark, dungeony, divey\u201d vibe, as one Yelp reviewer said of it.\r\n\r\nDress is California casual, with the West Coast's higher degree of \u201cwoo-woo\u201d reflected in the occasional presence of a tarot-card reader. No longer are jazz standards heard here. Instead, honky-tonk tunes blare from the jukebox.\r\n\r\nBefore the coronavirus shutdown, it hosted regular drag-king and karaoke nights. Never the \u201cit\u201d place, the White Horse is a come-as-you-are joint that\u2019s somehow, after all these years, still here.