Gay/lesbian nightlife in London is renowned for its diversity. From rubber "gummi-bear" nights to preppie "high-tea dances," London sports a club, pub, disco, or even temporary basement venue for every proclivity and kink. In an effort to cash in on as wide a sampling of clubbers as possible, some owners offer a variety of specialty nights that can be surprisingly strict in their exclusivity. This one-night-stand approach to club life is what keeps London's nightlife fresh and exciting (because it's so darned competitive) but it can be confusing.
What might be gay and mixed on a Saturday could be decidedly heterosexual on a Sunday, and largely gay, black, and "indie" on a Monday. Aside from the dyke-only bars and some strict dress-code bars, bars are open to all, but consult a current issue of Boyz, DIVAor QXto avoid disappointment. Although licensing laws have been relaxed, traditional pubs still close around 11 p.m. (10:30 Sundays), while other bars, discos and clubs just start rolling at midnight.
WEST END: SOHO AND COVENT GARDEN
Check out always busy Compton's (51-53 Old Compton St., W1; +44-20-7479-7961), a atmosphere is traditional English pub.
The Admiral Duncan (54 Old Compton St.; +44-20/7437-5300) is a popular pre-and post-theater pub with a mixed crowd of Londoners and tourists. Newly gay Duke of Wellington (77 Wardour St.; +44-20/7439-1274) is another traditional London pub given a gay makeover. Further along the same street, Trash Palace (11 Wardour Street; +44-20-7734-0522) is a frenetic late opening two storey bar, loved by the indie rock crowd. Also popular with the young alternative music crowd is Retro Bar (2 George Court, Adelphi; +44-20-7839-8760), just off The Strand.
Kudos (10 Adelaide St., WC2; +44-20-7379-4573) and Bar Code (3-4 Archer St, W1; +44-20-7734-3342) are modern, happy hour alternatives popular with what gay Londoners smilingly call the 'cute suits' and the Levi & T-shirt crowd. Kudos is often crowded, particularly on Saturday nights when it is the starting point for club bunnies on their way to Heaven. Bar Code has a harder edge, and there's dancing in its basement bar until late on weekends. Back Bar is now Escape Bar (10a Brewer St., W1; +44-20-7734-2626), open until 3 a.m. six days a week.
The Edge (11 Soho Square; +44-20-7439-1313) is a great place in good weather when the crowd flows out onto the sidewalk. It's an attractive, three-story space attracting a friendly, young crowd. Get in the mood in the so-hip-it-hurts Freedom Caf? (60-66 Wardour St.; +44-20-7734-0071; open till 3 a.m.), a mixed gay/straight bar in the heart of Soho with a downstairs cabaret and a great selection of beer from around the world, open from 9a.m.-11p.m. The bar was revamped early 2005.
Ku Bar (75 Charing Cross Rd., W1; +44-20-7437-4303) is a stylish bar, popular with a young crowd on their way to the clubs. 79CXR (79 Charing Cross Rd., W1; +44-20-7734-0769) is a big bar with late hours and low attitude, catering to a cross section of gay men, and a good bet most nights of the week, especially after 11p.m. It has a reputation as quite a pick up spot.
Village Soho (81 Wardour St., W1; +44-20-7434-2652; open till 1 a.m.; Sundays till 10:30 p.m.) is busy with cute boys on two floors. A revamp in 2005 has given it a new lease of life. The Yard (57 Rupert St., W1; +44-20-7437-2652) is located through a passageway between two tall buildings. With food service, two floors and indoor/outdoor space, they draw a good, younger, sometimes rough-around-the-edges crowd. Its outdoor patio is the place to hang out when the sun shines.
Rupert Street (50 Rupert St.; +44-20-7292-7141) is an award-winning, stylish bar, highly popular with a young and cute crowd and often bursting at the seams. Check out the john while you're there -- for the d?cor. If dancing is not your thing it's now easier to drink in Central London after 11 at night. G.A.Y Bar (30 Old Compton St., W1; +44-20-7494 2756) is pure pop paradise, with huge LCD video screens showing the latest clips and remains open until 1 a.m. Downstairs is a women's bar, Girls Go Down. The Shadow Lounge (5 Brewer St., W1; +44-20-7287-7988) was London's most talked-about gay scene newcomer of 2001, a members' ?lounge' club where you don't necessarily have to be a member to gain admission. The place to be seen sipping cocktails next to London's A-list, including a few celebrities you may recognize, this is still the most sophisticated gay bar in town. Just round the corner, Soho Revue Bar (7-12 Walker's Court; +44-20-7734-0377) is a performance club, with events such as Sunday's Cabaret Spectacular. In its former incarnation as Too 2 Much, it was the site of Elton and David's wedding reception.