Be Queer Right Here at NYC’s Best LGBTQ Bars
Unlike so many others around the globe, New York City queers aren’t limited to two gauche options when planning a Gay 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. But with so many LGBTQ+ bars around town, each offering a wildly different experience, a simple night of drinking becomes an overwhelming, choose-your-own-adventure ordeal.
In the spirit of gay rights, I bravely squeezed into my tightest pants, chapsticked my lips, and dragged my whiskey sour-drinking ass to as many self-identifying queer bars as one lightweight gay boy can. I wanted to make going out easier for you, dear queer, by ruling out the spots with watery well drinks, exorbitant cover charges, and predatory creeps. My research involved hunting for happy hours and testing each bathroom’s mirror selfie potential. I even learned how to write my phone number on a napkin without breaking eye contact, which isn’t relevant to my findings, but impressive nonetheless. Also impressive? Each one of the 18 best LGBTQ+ bars in NYC.
Late-night dancing on a quiet Brooklyn street
In a neighborhood once dominated by Metropolitan, The Rosemont sprouted as a trendier alternative for Brooklynites to 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 Rosemont creates a welcome environment for all queer people -- enough so that their occasional Peggy parties have become a favorite in the lesbian community.
The unassuming Village haunt that knows a good time
The source of Pieces’ power is its winning personality. On the surface, it’s little more than a dive bar with tacky decorations and a makeshift stage, but stick around for a while and you’ll see why its masterful playlists, affable drag queens, and cheap drinks pull rank on the competition and draw crowds. It’s the place you take your posse to build up energy for the night ahead, and oftentimes, the night passes by before you ever make it to stop number two... but who’s complaining?
Budding basement bar highlights Brooklyn’s thriving nightlife
The Vault is still a relative newcomer to Brooklyn’s club scene, occupying the bi-level space once home to Tilt BK. There’s a small bar on the ground floor -- cool -- but it’s the seductive basement floor that quickly threw The Vault on the map. The underground parties are known to get rowdy, often featuring alt drag performers, reputable DJs, and a dance floor full of welcoming LGBTQ+ people all looking for a new safe space to drop it low.
Whether you’re into queer cultural sites or dance clubs that keep the party going ‘til the wee hours of the morning, there’s an LGBTQ scene for you to uncover in cities across the country. And while you’re trekking through the city or bellying up to the local bar, keep an eye out for Truly’s brand new Lemonade Hard Seltzer. This variety pack of four Lemonade styles just dropped, and it’s the perfect combo of refreshing lemonade and seltzer, with just 1 gram of sugar -- making Truly Lemonade a must-try for everyone (over 21, of course) who’s along for the trip.
Manhattan’s latest club takes the party underground
The people behind Pieces and Hardware struck gold again with their newest nightlife concept, Playhouse. Just steps from other Village hotspots, the bar brings crowds below street level, where a technicolor dance floor and stage area already play host to some of the hottest events in the city. Whether they’re in it for the lights, music, drinks, or queens, one thing’s for certain: There aren’t any dull boys here.
Beloved lesbian dive knows no strangers
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 Cubbyhole 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.
An alternative to the whitewashed Village scene
When Eddie Valentin opened Friend’s in 1989, one objective was “...giving people in a very gay Latino community, which is Jackson Heights, a safe haven where they could go without being ridiculed or attacked...” he told Get Out! magazine last spring. That goal is still as critical as ever, as many of the city’s POC-focused bars have been forced to close their doors. 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 specials, brings in DJs, and hosts exotic male dancers.
Shoebox event space gives queer comedy a platform
Alan Cumming’s brainchild expertly fosters community -- in part because the cramped walls force people together, but more so because it offers a queer space for comedians, musicians, and fans of comedy and music to get to know one another through intimate shows and performances. On a lucky night, you might catch a glimpse of Alan passing through, but despite his celeb status, he’s far from the only reason to stop in for a drink.
Coyote Ugly for queer boys
Rural gays get their due at 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 Dixie 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 bed your boots will end up under.
Yes, it’s still open
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 blares as gay forefathers and Gen Z twinks slam down Stellas and fried foods in perfect harmony.
Queens’ queens can hang
Of course there’s no wrong way to gay, but if you’re still writing off the outer boroughs, you sure as hell aren’t right. ICON is Astoria’s modern gay sanctuary, worshiping great music and raw talent. Each week, the stage curtains open on some of drag’s fiercest icons -- like Jan Sport, a Season 12 Ru Girl and host of Fabulous Fridays. When queens aren’t dominating the room, the bar’s no less righteous; any night of the week, you’ll be bathed in good vibes.
The locals’ hideout that feels like home
This vaguely lesbian lair attracts more gender diversity than its Manhattan counterparts, primarily because it’s marketed as a space for all LGBTQ+ folks, not just the ladies. Nestled in South Brooklyn’s gayborhood, Ginger’s also draws fewer tourists and college students than, say, the bars near Christopher Park, making it locals’ preferred choice for low-key meet-ups. There’s pool, a jukebox, and in the warmer months, a back patio you can spend the whole evening on.
Uptown pub where weeknight karaoke shines
Suite’s the kind of low-frills pub where one beer turns to two, which turns to three, which turns to you sidling up to the bar until closing time, at which point you’ll be dr**k and feeling the inexplicable need to slap down a $10 bill in exchange for one of their brown, branded v-neck tees before calling it a night. There’s a karaoke party every Sunday-Thursday night and drag shows on weekends, keeping the energy high seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
One session will lift your spirits
Two types of gays dominate NYC: those who seek treatment from medical professionals, and those who seek treatment from more traditional sources of healing (i.e., dancing to forget). Neither is necessarily better than the other -- or cheaper -- but if you’re the latter, Therapy’s your spot. Its claims to fame are the 5x weekly drag shows and Sunday Service drag brunch, led by queens that you already know and love. Best of all, you can put your family at ease by letting them know you’re going to Therapy.
Landmark rendezvous where Pride was born
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, Stonewall continues bringing queer people together with regular drag shows, dance parties, karaoke nights, and Pride-themed events. It’s a tourist favorite, but you’d be foolish to let that deter you.
A massive, jack-of-all-trades venue
Elbow room is precious in NYC, which explains how one of the city’s newer LGBTQ+ bars established itself as a nightlife destination so damn fast. Touted as the largest queer venue in Brooklyn, 3 Dollar Bill has a bar room, a performance area and dance floor, an outdoor space, and a full Mexican kitchen. It’s home to more than a few types of events, including circuit parties, flea markets, comedy shows, and TV watch parties.
Cubbyhole’s rebellious sister
Cubby is for cheap drinks and socializing; Henrietta Hudson is 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).
A cozy piece of history that’s become a neighborhood staple
Albatross doesn’t need renovations or craft beers to hold its place as Queens’ most delightful queer bar; their free board games and $8, 16-ounce “cock-tails” prove that sometimes cheaper is better. Albatross 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, bingo, drag performances, and screenings of can’t-miss TV events, like major awards shows and Drag Race.
Small space with big personality
When a bar crawl lands you in the ‘Burg, work Macri Park into the route. They’re not afraid to charge a cover, but for a few dollars’ admission, you’ll gain access to a friendly back patio and a drag-loving crowd that’s ready to stuff bills where the sun don’t shine. The energy at Macri slaps, and the limited space forces bonding among fellow boozers. This shouldn’t be your first stop -- or your only stop -- but it’s deserving of a stop on your journey to seeing stars.
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