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.
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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.
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.
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