The Pantry Raid

by Caroline Ramos

The Pantry was a popular bar on City Hall Ave during the 70’s which welcomed all people, but more commonly those belonging to the LGBTQ community. One night in March of 1976 the Norfolk Police stormed into the Pantry and apprehended twelve men on multiple charges. The ranged from selling liquor by the glass to known homosexuals, holding hands with someone of the same sex through facilitating a “house of ill repute.” The manager and 11 patrons arrested at the Pantry became known as the Pantry 12. The manager was charged with maintaining a “bawdy place.”
The twelve arrested stood up for themselves in court. They wore fancy suits and ties and hired a straight ally to represent them, Peter Decker. Peter Decker later became one of the most richest men from Norfolk as well as one of the most generous. He did lots of pro-bono work for the LGTBQ community.

This raid along with a couple others during the decade and going into the 80’s allowed for the LGBTQ community to come closer and become more organized. Our Own was started a couple months after the Pantry raid and though they didn’t cover the raid, it was a vital communication platform for those of the community to know more information and find legal help.

(Around this area is where the Pantry was located, which is right by the Royster Building on Granby St. and City Hall Ave.)

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