The 20 Best LGBTQIA+ Bars in NYC
From tried and true favorites to up-and-coming hot spots, there's an inclusive option for all.
NYC queers aren’t limited to just a few options when planning a night out. Here in the birthplace of Pride, we can hop from dive to nightclub to karaoke bar without ever stepping foot in a str**ght establishment. And with so many LGBTQIA+ bars around town, each offering a wildly different experience, there’s no shortage of fun spots that have inclusion of all kinds in mind.
Some of our favorite queer bars are brand new, some were central figures in the gay liberation movement. Some cater to specific groups within the queer community, some are a melting pot of gender, sexuality, kink, and expression. But the one thing each has in common is that some way, somehow, they make the city shine a little brighter. Just in time for National Coming Out Day this week, here are the 20 best LGBTQIA+ bars in NYC right now.
From the owners of Rise comes The Spot, a new club with seemingly endless potential that opened its doors in summer of 2021. Already, queer people have showed up in droves to prove that there's still a strong market for Hell’s Kitchen venues following the closure of places like Therapy and Vodka Soda Bottoms Up. When a DJ takes the aux cord here, the dance floor comes to life, complete with flashing lights and stage performers. In calmer moments, you can still anticipate pop music that sets the tone for a satisfying night out.
Just across from the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx lives a vibrant queer sanctuary that eliminates the need to bar hop. Opened earlier this year by Aidan Loughran, who also founded the eatery Saints and Scholars in Yonkers, Identity has already lined up a series of unique recurring events that give gay bars in any borough a run for their money. On any given day the vibe is electric, enough so that you’ll be planning your next visit the moment you walk through its doors.
Calling Pink Metal a queer spot is a bit of a stretch, but hang inside long enough and you'll start to see that it doesn't need an LGBTQ+ label to become a cherished part of the community. The narrow femme bar initially planned its grand opening for March 13, 2020—the day the US declared a national emergency for COVID-19—but even through a pandemic, it found a way to gain a cult following among locals. Its pink neon lights and emphasis on sexuality emulate Berlin’s nightlife scene, and the regular no-cover burlesque nights and drag performances all but seal the deal. Grab a colorful craft cocktail and sidle up to the bar for an experience that's perfect for the ‘Gram and far from cliché.
Albatross doesn’t need renovations or craft beers to hold its place as one of Queens’ most delightful queer bars; their $8, 16-ounce “cock-tails” prove that sometimes cheaper is better. The establishment once catered specifically to lesbians, but later shifted its focus to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Throughout the week, you’re likely to stumble upon karaoke, drag bingo, drink-and-draw events with live models, and screenings of can’t-miss TV events, like major awards shows and Drag Race.
Not a hurricane, nor earthquake, nor apocalypse could get in the way of your night at Barracuda. The windowless bar shuts out the world around it to fully immerse visitors in what it has to offer. And it offers quite a bit, particularly in terms of drag: Over 25 years, it’s given the stage to all sorts of prominent NYC performers, including Tina Burner,Peppermint, and, most recently, Kizha Carr, who hosts the iconic drag competition Star Search every Thursday night.
The Boiler Room
The Boiler Room is a textbook dive bar: it’s cash only, has one beat-up pool table, lets guests choose the music with a jukebox, and doesn't believe in signature drinks. What you see—an old-school East Village watering hole—aligns perfectly with the experience you get. Whereas many gay bars center their identity around queerness, The Boiler Room looks like any straight person’s go-to spot, only you don't need to expend energy worrying about whether you're welcome. Sometimes it's fun to ditch the pretentiousness, dress down, and order a PBR for old time’s sake.
Just a few blocks north of Prospect Park, this sweet country gem feels like a day at the rodeo. Branded Saloon’s vibrant decor transports you straight to Texas and its expansive, cross-cuisine menu exceeds the expectations of a bar that could’ve easily stopped at domestic beer cans and onion rings. Think inventive cocktails with Southwestern flair, alcoholic slushies and flavored shots, a half-dozen hot toddies for every palate, and brunch, lunch, and dinner entrees to satisfy any craving. Maybe y’all can’t visit Austin on a whim, but a short trip on the subway offers a dang-good alternative.
Owned and operated by queer people, C’mon Everybody welcomes, well, everybody—as long as they’re vaccinated, that is. The independent bar and music venue hosts some of the sexiest, sweatiest queer parties in the city, filled with a diverse mix of folks from every race, gender, and orientation. Unlike other club-like destinations, the spot also prides itself in its drink menu, which extends beyond well drinks to include bright and flavorful cocktails like the radicalesbian-inspired Lavender Menace and the hibiscus-flavored Love in Bloom that you can sit and sip with or without entertainment.
One of the city’s last surviving lesbian bars, Cubbyhole holds far more customers than square feet without losing its local feel. The ladies are friendly at this long-standing dive, and if you’re new to the scene, you’ll get to know everyone pretty damn quick. The beauty of this iconic gem transcends its gaudy ceiling decor; it’s a multigenerational playground where strangers become friends, King Princess rules the jukebox, and straight men enter at their own risk.
While it’s not exactly Williamsburg’s best-kept secret, The Exley is an often-overlooked meeting place that few outside North Brooklyn take full advantage of. Its interior is dim and charming, and its varied outdoor seating options are beloved for casual evenings out with friends. Situated just below the BQE—and not far south of McCarren Park—the place fosters a relatively tame environment perfect for chatting the evening away with the people you love most. Plus, its menu puts an emphasis on strong cocktails and locally brewed draft beer.
Flaming Saddles Saloon
Rural gays get their due at Flaming Saddles Saloon, the Coyote Ugly for queer boys and HK’s unapologetically Western saloon where outfitted bartenders serve more than just drinks. Every so often, the dancing drink-makers clack their boots across the counter to the sounds of The Chicks, Shania, Dolly, and the like. The bartop choreography is a former farm boy’s wet dream; catch the attention of a dancer and you might earn a free shot during the show. After Texas two-stepping your way through the night, who knows whose beds your boots will end up under.
When Eddie Valentin opened Friend’s in 1989, one objective was to provide the existing gay Latino community with a safe space. That goal is still critical as ever, as many of the city’s POC-focused bars have been forced to close their doors —a disheartening trend that was worsened by COVID-19. Jackson Heights is home to a concentration of LGBTQ+ establishments, and a naughty night on Roosevelt Avenue should make every queer’s bucket list. Friend’s is the venue that started it all, and today the place frequently runs drink specials, brings in DJs, and hosts exotic male dancers.
Cubbyhole’s rebellious sister trades cheap drinks and socializing for disco balls and grinding. Since 1991, Henrietta’s lured ladies in with her colorful lights, dance cages, and near-deafening beats. On weekend nights, you’re likely to find celesbian DJs on the turntables, and if you’re looking to save a dime, you can start the night early enough to catch their daily happy hour deals. If you thought you were in for a tame night out, Henrietta will set you straight (figuratively speaking, of course).
If you see wild club scenes in movies and think, “that doesn’t exist IRL,” you clearly haven’t been to Industry. Square footage is the hotspot’s biggest asset, with three large areas each equipped to handle a crowd. There’s the classic bar room with tables and stools; a sexy, veiled lounge for intimate moments; and a performance area where drag queens and DJs post up daily at 11 pm. During busy times, guests can check bags and coats by the entrance before letting loose, and early birds are rewarded with $2 off every drink from 5 pm-9 pm.
This decades-old favorite never stopped being fun. The cash-only dive that’s widely considered the oldest gay bar in NYC has been slinging drinks to a mostly male crowd since the 1860s, and in the 1960s, the clientele began skewing queer after a “Sip-In” led to the state Supreme Court declaring that “well-behaved homosexuals” could not be denied service. Today, the jukebox at Julius’ blares as gay forefathers and Gen Z twinks slam down drinks along with the spot’s signature burger and fried foods in perfect harmony.
Gay bars are scarce north of Hell’s Kitchen, which is why Harlem’s surviving queer jaunts are such important staples in New York’s LGBTQ+ community. Opened during the pandemic by the married couple behind Lambda Vodka, the Lambda Lounge aims to blend “downtown elegance” with “uptown swag.” The Black-owned bar achieves its goal with tufted leather sofas, exposed brick walls, and colorful mood lighting to complement its equally colorful signature cocktails. Happy hour from Tuesday through Friday offers buy one, get one drinks, and if you plan to arrive with a crowd, you can reserve a private section in advance to secure space.
Williamsburg has changed tremendously over the past couple of decades, but after stepping foot into Metropolitan, you’d never know it. Since 2002, the outer-borough locale has stayed true to its grit—a brand that includes fog machines, go-go dancers, billiards, and an enormous backyard that hosts summer barbecues and year-round enthusiasm. Metropolitan shrugs away the notion of craft cocktails and avant-garde entertainment, instead adhering to the principle that in a neighborhood of newness, it’s important for some things to stay true to who they are.
If you say you’re going “nowhere” this weekend, you better be referencing the bar. Despite its unassuming name, Nowhere makes dark and dingy environs something to long for. With affordable drink prices, unbeatable music, and a newly replaced pool table, this is somewhere you need to experience. If not for the beer and shot combos, for the talkative patrons that you’re sure to befriend. Head in a little later in the night and you just might stumble across a raunchy party—here, what happens in the dark corner of the bar stays in the dark corner of the bar.
The Rosemont sprouted on a quiet block of Montrose Avenue in late 2016 as a trendy new spot where Brooklynites could get their freak on. The bar doesn’t fully come to life till late in the night, and its spacious back patio serves as the perfect cool-down area after dancing to your heart’s content. The place creates a welcome environment for all queer people—one that thrives at weeknight parties and Sunday brunches alike, and more importantly, one that values diversity in all its forms.
It’s no coincidence that this bar shares a name with the 1969 Stonewall Riots: The Stonewall Inn is where the gay liberation movement began over 50 years ago, securing its place as the most significant LGBTQ+ bar in the world. Now a National Historic Landmark, the spot continues bringing queer people together with regular drag shows, dance parties, piano nights, and Pride-themed events. It’s a tourist favorite, but you’d be foolish to let that deter you.