On December 12, 1969 just a mere 6 months after the Stonewall riots the NYPD was at it again as it enter the Continental Baths on the UWS of NYC. They arrest three patrons and three employees, charging the patrons with lewd and lascivious acts and the employees with criminal mischief.
Steve Ostrow who opened the Continental Baths the previous year. told The Guardian in 2018 that he and his wife launched the business because of his disappointment with other (Mafia-run) venues he visited. “I had been to a few clubs. But they turned me off. They were dirty … filthy. They treated you like shit.”
The police raid on December 12, 1969, was not an unusual occurrence. In February 1969 the Continental Baths was also raided by th NYPD. Twenty-two patrons were arrested, identified by one undercover towel-clad policeman who identified the men who offered to have sex with him or actually had had sex with him. Steve Ostrow told the ABC in 2013 that the cops raided the venue 200 times in its first year of operation. He explained the police modus operandi — entrapment .
“Homosexuality was illegal. Two men dancing together was illegal. Very good-looking policemen would come in, rent a room, get into a towel, go into the steam room and then wait for someone to touch them. And then, from underneath the towel, out would come handcuffs. Then they’d arrest everybody in the place.”
Steve Ostrow always followed the trucks downtown and bailed everyone out.
Not to worry though everyone. Bette and Barry were not caught up in the raid. They didn’t start until the next year.