The 14 Best LGBTQ Bars in San Diego

From dive bars and nightclubs to the world’s first gay craft brewery.

Home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the country, the San Diego neighborhood of Hillcrest is where much of the city’s queer community is centered. It’s also where you’ll find the world’s first gay craft brewery and the first street in the country to be named after gay activist Harvey Milk, dedicated in 2012.

In recent years, gayborhoods have also emerged in North Park, University Heights, Normal Heights and beyond, creating welcoming havens for denizens and visitors in search of queer-friendly bars and clubs, as well as restaurants, theatres, retail shops, and other businesses. So whether you’re looking to show off your pride or simply for a new and fun spot to try, we’ve rounded up our favorite LGBTQ bars to make your decision that much easier.

#1 Fifth Avenue
#1 Fifth Avenue

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Hillcrest
A safe haven for drinking, dancing, and socializing since 1981, Number One Fifth Avenue hits all the right notes with Gunther’s Bathhouse Bingo Mondays, Tigers Pictionary Tuesday, and karaoke every Wednesday, plus $5 Bloody Marys, mimosas, and micheladas Saturday and Sunday from 12–2 pm.

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The Hole in the Wall

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Point Loma
Affectionately known as The Hole, this friendly, unpretentious dive bar can be a little hard to find—it was built into an aqueduct excavation and once had a chicken shack as a next door neighbor. A safe haven for the LGBTQ community since the 1940s, it boasts one of the largest smoking patios in San Diego and outdoor fire pits perfect for cozy conversations. Ongoing events include karaoke, beer pong and DJs Thursday through Saturday, and their popular Sunday Funday beer blasts, along with cocktails by the pitcher or skinny pitcher, plus burgers and dogs from The Holey Grill.

Martinis
Photo courtesy of Martinis

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Hillcrest
We were crushed when Martinis Above Fourth, Hillcrest’s iconic martini bar, closed due to COVID, so when new owners recently reopened it as Martinis, a collective cheer went up from cocktail and cabaret lovers alike. Not much has changed with the new ownership—the menus have been trimmed down a bit, but the chic surroundings and inclusive vibe that made MAF so beloved still remain. Sundays bring Boozy Balcony Brunch with over-the-top entertainment, or stop by for Thursday Date Night and Body Oddy Oddy Drag Shows, and Trivia Night every second and fourth Saturday.
How to book: Check upcoming shows and reserve your seats via Eventbrite.

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Bankers Hill
Fresh flowers, chandeliers, etched glass, and dark red walls give the SRO Lounge a quirky 1960s Mad Men vibe in a distinctly divey atmosphere. Fridays and Saturdays feature trans-friendly Gurls Nite Out weekend socials where you’ll find a mixed-age crowd. The entire block, which also houses The Balboa Bar and Grill, was sold to a developer in 2017, with a timeline for closing/relocating the SRO Lounge that ranges from yesterday to maybe never, so be sure to visit this classic venue before it goes the way of The Caliph.

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University Heights
Cheers, a former grocery store, opened as a bar in 1982, the same year as the popular sitcom but without the peacocking hetero vibe. Chill on the smoking patio, play pool, or just hang out chatting with old and new friends in a low-key, corner bar atmosphere. Don’t miss Sunday BBQ with Chef Rodney, Sister Gaymes Night every second Wednesday, and Trivia Night with Jay on the first and third Thursday each month.

Gossip Grill
Gossip Grill

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Hillcrest
According to The Lesbian Bar Project, there are only 21 lesbian bars in the United States, but fortunately for San Diegans, Gossip Grill remains a friendly, all-inclusive meeting spot where the ladies always outnumber the boys. There’s a full patio bar and restaurant for day drinking, brunching, and cozy dinners around the fire pits, and after dark they transform into a nightclub where you can dance yourself silly until the wee hours. Check out Bingo Gone Bonkers, with San Diego’s crankiest drag queen Mariam T on Wednesdays, Double D’s Dinner and Drag on Thursdays, and Finger Me Fridays for rotating DJs.
How to book: Reservations may be made via OpenTable. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

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Hillcrest
Originally known as The Brass Rail, this historic haunt from the 1930s first opened in the Orpheum Theatre downtown as a popular lunch spot and after-hours hangout for young professionals. It relocated to the Hillcrest gayborhood in the '60s and now hosts popular weekly events like Thursday Big Gay Trivia, Country Dance Nights, and Sabados En Fuego, featuring hot Latin go-go dancers and deeply discounted margaritas.

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Hillcrest
There’s nothing not to love about The Loft—the drinks are strong, the bartenders are sexy, and the juke box is always jammin’—in other words, it’s just about the perfect dive bar. A popular first stop for a night of bar hopping or dancing, the charming atmosphere and laid back vibe might just make you lose track of time and miss stops two, three, and four, not that you’ll regret it. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 11 am–5 pm, and daily specials like Tequila Tuesdays and WiBe (wine and beer) Thursdays offer regular discounts.

flicks san diego
Flicks

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Hillcrest
Located in the heart of Hillcrest, Flicks has been a local favorite for more than 33 years. All day Happy Hour brings the joy on Mondays through Friday from 4–7 pm and all day Tuesdays, while Welfare Wednesdays feature wallet-friendly $5 well drinks from 9 pm on. If you dare, strut your stuff at Saturday night’s regularly scheduled Underwear Show to win $100.

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Hillcrest
The party never really stops at Urban Mo’s, a het-friendly gay bar famous for its daily bottomless mimosas. Sunday Funday brunches with Miriam T feature jello shots, DJs, twerk offs, go go boys, and games galore. Nobody goes hungry at Showtunes Spaghetti Tuesdays, where a measly $7.50 gets you all the pasta you can eat and all the showtunes you can sing along with starting at 5 pm.

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One of the 50 most popular gay bars in the country, PECS is a popular stomping ground for bears/cubs and the folks who love them. Stop in on the first Saturday of the month for THIRST night, where $12 gets you three hours of drafts poured by hot beermongers. Where To Be Wednesdays features $5 wells from 7 pm till closing, making it a budget-friendly option for mid-week drinks.

hillcrest brewing company
Hillcrest Brewing Company

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Hillcrest
San Diego’s world class craft beer culture makes it a given that we’d also be the home to the world’s first gay brewery. High ceilings and an Instagram-worthy chandelier, plenty of bar and table seating, plus a good-sized, dog-friendly patio make this a favorite hangout for families, locals, and neighborhood sports leagues. The cheeky beer names—like the popular Banana Hammock Scotch Ale and Crotch Rocket Irish Style Red Ale—pair perfectly with their pizzas, wings, and house-made pretzels. Hit them up any day of the week from 2–6 pm for $2 off drafts, wine, and wells; Hoppy Hour deals; and $3 pizza slices from 2–6 pm on weekdays.

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North Park
Leather isn’t a requirement at San Diego Eagle...but it’s definitely highly encouraged. Small, dusky, and decidedly masculine, there’s plenty of dimly lit corners for close encounters and getting-to-know-you rendezvous. Daily happy hours run till 8 pm, with $5.50 wells and $13.50 pitchers of any wells; special events include a monthly Saturday Night Underwear Party, plus other kink and fetish nights, including Yellow Hanky Socials, Pup Night, and Rubber and Latex Nights.

Rich's San Diego
Rich's San Diego

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Hillcrest
Rich’s is split down the middle: on a regular night, there’s top 40 in the front room and house in the main room. Mischief Wednesdays are no-cover nights featuring throwbacks up front and dance/EDM out back, plus a hot go-go boys contest at midnight, while Thursday’s wildly popular Lez nights have hip hop in the front and house/deep house in the main room.
How to book: Reservations for the outdoor lounge can be made via OpenTable.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments on Twitter.