14 LGBTQ+ Bars in New Orleans That Keep the Party Going All Year Long
Leather bars, bumpin’ balconies, and other queer spaces in New Orleans.
Every year, tourists swarming the Crescent City for Mardi Gras know to expect a raucous party, over-the-top costumes, and a whooole bunch of beads. What they may not know is how Mardi Gras historically served as a critical outlet for self-expression—and political resistance—for the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
Mardi Gras was the one day out of the year when cross-dressing in public was tolerated by police. During Carnival season, lavish parades and balls thrown by social organizations known as “krewes” provided the perfect excuse for the queer community to get together and dance, at a time when doing so was still very much illegal. Still, tensions with law officials ran high. The first gay krewe, Yuga, was formed in 1958; four years later, police raided the Yuga ball, arresting 96 krewe members for lewd conduct and disturbing the peace.
But that didn’t stop the party. New gay krewes like Petronius, Amon-Ra, and Armeinius formed in Yuga’s wake, creating glittering spectacles and secret societies that defied harsh anti-gay laws. These Carnival krewes undoubtedly sowed seeds for the LGBTQ+ rights movement years before Stonewall; above all, they helped establish this town’s enduring reputation as a haven for creative expression and open-mindedness.
Every year during Labor Day Weekend, New Orleans celebrates all things gay with Southern Decadence, a six-day, rainbow-drenched festival in the French Quarter. But even between festival seasons, there’s no shortage of spots to celebrate the queer culture that makes New Orleans the anything-goes city it is today. While every bar in New Orleans is a welcoming one, a handful of beloved dives and dance clubs specifically cater to LGBTQ+ patrons of all stripes.
A major anchor of the LGBTQ+ bar scene since the 1970s (prior to that, it operated under the name Caverns), Bourbon Pub & Parade remains a top-ranking queer party destination. Four-on-the-floor house remixes of top 40 songs? Check. Wrap-around balcony overlooking Bourbon Street? Check. Pretty boys dancing on the bar in their underwear? You better believe that’s a check.
Open since 1933, Cafe Lafitte in Exile is the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the US (or so it says, a few other bars make the same claim). Regardless of whether it’s in the number one spot, this 90-year-old watering hole is steeped in history and has hosted the likes of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote over its several decade run. The iconic bar is located in a corner lot off New Orleans’ Bourbon Street and has inhabited its comfortable, two-story spot since 1953. Prior to that, it was housed in Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, a weathered 18th-century landmark just a few houses down, where it was simply named Cafe Lafitte—the “in Exile” suffix came later when it was forced to move down the street. These days, the historic bar is open 24/7, welcoming LGBTQ+ revelers to the laid-back first floor, where you can shoot pool and hang out, and the second story, with upbeat music and a balcony where you can let your hair down until curfew.
Crossing is a self-proclaimed straight-friendly gay bar, where you’ll find sports airing on the bar’s eight TVs, movie nights, and roaring rounds of trivia. Whether you want a Vieux Carre or standard beer and a shot, this neighborhood bar has you covered. Between all the entertainment, happy hour from 7 am to 2 am daily, plus a bar fare menu with burgers, wings, and more, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else.
Good Friends is great for a low key night out, but don’t get them wrong— on parade days and holidays, the crowd turns everything up a notch. The multi-level space’s most eye-catching detail is the mahogany bar with brass rails and massive gargoyles on each corner. Escape the craziness of Bourbon Street for a chill night at this neighborhood favorite.
You’ll recognize this laid-back neighborhood gay bar by its water-filled dog bowls and the absence of a cover charge—even on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, which bring live music and drag shows. Just be sure to tip the hard-working ladies, which should be easy to do, given that drinks are cheap and strong, and happy hour runs from 8 am to 8 pm daily. There’s a reason this intimate, dog-friendly hangout has been open since 1964. Don’t miss the string bean- and okra-packed Bloody Mary, the perfect drink to have in hand when Southern Decadence’s annual parade kicks off from Golden Lantern during Labor Day Weekend.
Sadly, the slow extinction of gay lady hangouts is by no means unique to the Crescent City. In response, Grrlspot organizers created this pop-up lesbian bar which attracts a diverse crowd (cis guys must be accompanied by a woman or trans person) to a different spot on the third Saturday of every month. Launched in 2007, Grrlspot is gearing up for its summer social season, which includes a slew of parties for Pride Month and Southern Decadence.
When Napoleon’s Itch opened in 2003 with a no-smoking policy, it was a trendsetter (smoking wouldn’t be officially outlawed in New Orleans bars until 2015). As a result, Napoleon’s Itch became a destination for queer folks seeking a slightly more health-conscious space—one with sparkling clean bathrooms and fresh craft cocktails to boot. Each year Napoleon’s Itch presents Southern Decadence’s annual Bourbon Street Extravaganza, a free three-hour concert that attracts Grammy-winning artists and more than 20,000 revelers.
This two-story gay dance bar sits directly across Bourbon Street from the Bourbon Pub & Parade and is so similar, both inside and out, that it’s easy to confuse the two. Together, they form the glittery, rainbow-soaked epicenter of gay New Orleans. The Oz brings its drag and “boylesque” productions to the next level, thanks to an acrobatic cast of pole and burlesque performers who elicit screams of delight from gay men and straight girls alike.
Located a little off-the-beaten path uptown, this queer dive bar provides the perfect locale for a chill night. Standard evenings feature daily drink specials and a Kim Cattrall blow up doll always hanging out in the bar area. But the laid-back space also regularly hosts food pop-ups, drag shows, and art markets, so check the calendar before heading over.
Owner Dennis Monn took over gay cowboy bar Cowpokes in 2009 and turned it into a space that’s more inclusive (you don’t have to be a cis dude in chaps to feel welcome there), but still very gay. Now an anchor of St. Claude Avenue’s entertainment corridor—which includes the queer-friendly, karaoke-centric, 24-hour Kajun’s Pub—the AllWays is a homey hangout where you’re equally likely to stumble upon jockstrap wrestling, a cat circus, burlesque performances, or a bounce night.
Do you enjoy watching waifish, college-age guys dance in their Fruit of the Looms? Are you among the aforementioned twinks who might enjoy the chance to win $100 during amateur night on “new meat” Fridays? If so, you’ll find a warm welcome at this low-key dive, which celebrates its 37th anniversary in June (note that Corner Pocket requires that female customers come with a male escort).
In the 1970s, a gay couple launched The Country Club, and it remains a stalwart player in the local LGBTQ+ scene. Featuring murals, bars both inside and out, plus a sauna, hot tub, and saltwater pool, it’s gone from glorified bathhouse to bachelorette party-soaked day club in recent years. Management did away with the clothing-optional policy and no longer brands The Country Club as a gay bar (it’s more of a “gay-adjacent” space now), but rainbow flags still beckon from the front porch and its Saturday drag brunches book up months in advance. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 pm on weekdays—or whenever it’s raining.
Since 1983, this Marigny outpost and its dark, anything-goes second floor have served as a sex-positive sanctuary for the leather and bear communities. Times have changed a bit, I mean, there’s a Starbucks directly across the street and some naysayers fear the leather bar’s glory days are in the past. But its new renovation and bigger-than-ever Pride block party (headlined by Big Freedia Queen Diva herself) suggest otherwise.
This bar bills itself as a down-to-earth leather bar—the kind of place where legit classic cocktails and chaps go hand in hand. The Silver Fox has shirtless bartenders, regular drag shows, and, of course, a whole lot of leather waiting for you. Aside from the dancefloor, there’s a jukebox to queue up your favorite hits, a pool table, and a “big ass mirror” to check yourself out. Feel free to wear leather or whatever makes you feel yourself.