Food & Drink

The Best LGBTQ Bars in San Diego

Bars and nightclubs have always been a favorite meeting spot for queer folk, where dim lighting and free flowing alcohol helped to ease inhibitions in the dismal days before one could be out and proud. It’s no coincidence, then, that the seminal event widely regarded as the origin of LGBTQ activism, the Stonewall Riots, began in a bar.

While most of San Diego’s queer nightlife still centers around Hillcrest, neighborhoods like North Park, University Heights, and beyond are emerging as havens for gay-friendly bars and clubs as well, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t venture out of your comfort zone and try someplace new. We’ve gathered a list of our favorite spots right here to make your decision that much easier.

Gossip Grill


A women’s bar where everyone is welcome
Lesbian bars are sadly lacking in San Diego (like in many cities), but 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 then after dark, they transform into a nightclub where you can dance yourself silly until the wee hours. The popular Wake & Bake Brunch features their usual brunch items, bottomless mimosas, and a specially curated “munchie menu” by Chef Nicole, along with a free wristband that gets you into the MJ Tours cannabis bus conveniently located outside. Happy hour is justifiably busy: each purchased drink gets you a token for a freebie that can be used immediately or saved for a future visit.

The Rail


Sip signature cocktails in San Diego’s oldest gay bar
Originally known as The Brass Rail, this circa 1930’s historic haunt opened in the Orpheum Theatre downtown as a popular lunch spot and after-hours hangout for young professionals, where law enforcement would regularly barge in with flashlights, shouting “Hands above the bar!” After relocating to the Hillcrest gayborhood in the '60s, The Rail hosts popular weekly events like Thursday Country Dance Nights and Sabados En Fuego, featuring hot Latin go-go dancers and deeply discounted margaritas. Plus, every third Thursday packs in the ladies during Girl's Night Out.

The Loft


A low key dive bar with heavy pours and hot bartenders
There’s nothing not to love about The Loft -- the drinks are strong, the bartenders are sexy and the juke box is 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.

Martinis Above Fourth


Savor huge martinis in a swanky cabaret
Martinis Above Fourth more than lives up to its name with nearly 100 different martinis and specialty cocktails, along with a seasonally focused menu. Cabaret-style entertainment from comedy to music to celebrity impersonations happens most nights, and the cleverly color-coded calendar lets you know at a glance whether it’s a no-cover or ticketed show. Happy hour specials run from 4-7pm and 10pm-closing every day and all evening on Mondays, so you really have no excuse not to cruise on in.



Karaoke and cheap, strong drinks are the headliners here
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 and Tuesdays, while Welfare Wednesdays feature wallet-friendly $2 well drinks from 9pm. If you dare, strut your stuff at Saturday night’s regularly scheduled Underwear Show to win $100, plus free swag from Manfest.

urban mo's
Courtesy of Urban Mo’s

Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill


A favorite brunch spot with bottomless mimosas
The party never really stops at Urban Mo’s, a hetero-friendly gay bar famous for its daily bottomless mimosas and Sunday Funday brunches. Sunday evening MEMEbox lets you text that cute guy you’re crushing on from across the room IRL, while enjoying $2 Bud Lights, rotating DJs, and sexy go-gos. Nobody goes hungry at Showtunes Spaghetti Tuesdays, where a measly $6.50 gets you all-you-can-eat pasta and all the showtunes you can sing along with starting at 5pm, along with $6.50 Black Lemonades, $6.50 Skyy Vodka Cocktails, and $4.75 Big Ass Bud Lights from 6pm till closing.

Courtesy of PECS


North Park

Chill vibes, friendly bartenders, and a great patio
One of the 50 most popular gay bars in the USA, 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 $10 gets you three hours of drafts poured by hot beermongers. Gamers should hit up Tuesdays for POUNDTOWN, with competitive fighting game fun and $1 off beers on the patio starting at 9pm.  

Hillcrest Brewing Company


Quaff beer in the world’s first gay brewery
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 naughtily named beers -- like the popular Banana Hammock Scotch Ale and Perle Necklace, made with perle hops -- pair perfectly with their pizzas, wings and house-made pretzels. Hit them up on Mondays for $.75 wings, and $3 Kill the Keg pours featuring a new style every week.

San Diego Eagle

North Park

Make all your leather fantasies come true
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 8pm, with $3 wells and free pool games; special events include Gear Night every Saturday, plus other kink and fetish nights including Yellow Hanky Socials and Rubber and Latex Nights.



Dance till you drop in two different rooms, with two different vibes
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 -- and 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. Look to the Rich's website for no cover codes to text before 11 pm on select nights.

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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 various vegetables and beverages, reading cookbooks and traveling through Mexico. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.