November 6, 1942

The Hill Top Tavern (later Merle's Hilltop Tavern) was a bar at 3411 MacArthur from 1942 until 2006. In the 1960s, it served as a meeting place for Native Americans; the first American Indian Movement (AIM) meetings in the Bay Area took place there, and the Alcatraz takeover in 1969 was organized in the tavern. 1

In 2006, Merle's was sold, the last American Indian-owned bar in Oakland. In 2007 it opened as Velvet, "a hip gay bar with a Raiders flair." Velvet had two rules: Rule No. 1: “If they can’t deal with a gay bar, they’re not welcome” Rule No. 2: Don’t trash the Oakland Raiders. 2 Now it is Lounge 3411.

Velvet was not its first time as a gay-friendly bar, however. In 1955, 3 women were arrested and fined $25 each. The Hill Top was described as "a hangout for sex deviates", 3 and the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control listed it and two other bars as "moral hazards." 4 The Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board declared the Hill Top and some other bars off-limits to military personnel. 5

Links and References

courtesy Frank Kelsey 6

  1. Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California nps.gov
  2. Velvet: A hip gay bar with a Raiders flair Oakland Tribune November 6, 2008
  3. Three Woman Nabbed in Vice Raid Are Fined $25 Each Oakland Tribune June 13, 1955
  4. 3 Bars Named "Moral Hazards" Oakland Tribune June 10, 1955
  5. 3 Bay Taverns Put "Off Limits" Oakland Tribune June 30, 1955
  6. matchbook photo