In 1954 when the California state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, joined by police and the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, declared war on gay bars in San Francisco. Mayor George Christopher, elected on a law-and-order platform in 1955, encouraged the campaign. Gay bars were subjected to constant harassment , raids and surveillance.
The campaign was still active early Sept. 14, 1961, when 242 patrons – nearly all of them men – were packed into the Tay-Bush Inn.
At 3:15 am, three undercover police officers in the bar gave a prearranged signal, the jukebox went silent, a loudspeaker outside blared and uniformed cops barged in. They began herding the patrons onto the sidewalk and arresting them.
It was the largest gay bar raid in San Francisco history. In the end 103 patrons were sent in seven patrol wagons to city jail and arrested on ‘lewd behavior’ charges. The arrested included actors, actresses, dancers, a state hospital psychologist, a bank manager, an artist and an Air Force purchasing agent. An article was published in San Francisco Examiner which gave the names, addresses, occupations and employers of the arrested.
The headline on The Chronicle’s story the next day read, “Big Sex Raid – Cops Arrest 103.” The secondary headline said, “139 Get Away.” (Police later insisted only five or so had escaped.)
In the end charges against all but two of those arrested were dropped.