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L.A.'s gay social life is eclectic both in scenes (twinks to leather daddies and everything in between), and venues: bars, clubs, coffeehouses, restaurants, beaches, health clubs and even supermarkets. Here are just some highlights.
In WeHo, the most visible clubs cater to a young, muscular and good-looking crowd, making the city a contender for attitude capital of the world, but even here ethnic and age diversity runs the gamut. To get your bearings, consider a crawl of the bars and clubs around Santa Monica Boulevard -- most are concentrated between Robertson Boulevard and Larrabee Street, though some worthy spots are about half-mile away, east of La Cienega Blvd.
Silver Lake, meanwhile, was once the exclusive domain of Levi/leather cruisers and Latinos, but now it attracts cute, young hipsters looking for an alternative to the WeHo S&M (Stand & Model) routine.
A few other notes: check listings for special and weekly events (see the Resources section). All visitors, regardless of how old they look, should carry photo ID, as drinking age laws are taken very seriously. Be prepared to pay a cover charge at clubs, especially on weekends. California bars and clubs, like restaurants, prohibit smoking indoors, though it's OK on outdoor patios and sidewalks.
BEST FOR WEST HOLLYWOOD -- MEN
See also O-Bar and Eleven under Dining listings, which have busy bar scenes.
The Abbey (692 N. Robertson Blvd; 310-289-8410) is a hybrid bar, restaurant and coffeehouse, and it succeeds in each category, making it pretty much an obligatory stop for any visitor. There's open patio setting, a Goth interior, and private enclosures along the back wall that remind us of pashas' boudoirs. Hunky bartenders serve dozens of flavored martinis and mojitos.
Next door is Here (696 N. Robertson Blvd; 310-360-8455), the very popular lounge which also has considerable outdoor space and attracts a handsome crowd. Decked out in concrete and brushed steel, Here is hip without being pretentious, and packed most nights.
East/West (8851 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-360-6186 or 877-EWLounge) serves cocktails both classic and contemporary in a chic, minimalist backdrop that makes you look fabulous. Bottle service also available, or book a private room upstairs.
Trunks (8809 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-652-1015) is more informal, skews a bit older, and attracts after-game crowds from gay softball or football teams, to watch the game, shoot pool, or kick back over a beer.
A similar crowd of manly men gathers for videos and pool at Mother Lode (8944 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-659-9700). Its Sunday afternoon beer bust is a tradition. And a more mature (chronologically, though not necessarily behaviorally) neighborhood crowd hangs at the Gold Coast (8228 Santa Monica Blvd; 323-656-4879), a cruise bar with an active parking lot.
The lineup changes nightly at the casual men's bar Fubar (7994 Santa Monica Blvd; 323-654-0396), from karaoke to club nights like the subtly named and very popular "Big Fat Dick," on Thursdays.
BEST FOR WEST HOLLYWOOD -- WOMEN
GirlBar (661 N. Robertson Blvd; West Hollywood; 310-659-4551), inside Ultrasuede at Factory Night Club every Friday night, is THE place for women. A glamorous, youngish, diverse, well-dressed and trendily coiffed crowd dances to pop music and ogles ever-so-politely the luscious female dancers gracing both ends of the huge dance space. Starting early for a drink in the hip entryway lounge, then meander back to shake it loose with L.A.'s hottest ladies.
The easygoing Palms (8572 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-652-1595) has been a women's bar since the early '70s and is still going strong. It's most popular Wednesday nights; and look for Sunday beer bust and weekend dance nights.
Just across the street from the Palms is the Normandie Room (8737 Santa Monica Blvd; 310-659-6204), which is cruisy for the late-night crowd. It's lesbian-centered but friendly to everyone, and it serves quality beers including Stella Artois and Guinness on tap. If you feel like shooting pool, go in the early evening.
WeHo bars East/West and Here (see above) both host women's nights on Thursdays -- see above for details of both venues. Sip a scrumptious martini at East/West before getting in the long line for Fuse at Here.
Part One | Part Two