For decades, the first (and only) place where many men and women could meet other gay, lesbian, or transgender people was at a bar, mostly in the shadows. The openly gay bar is a relatively new addition to the social space scene, and it became quite common quite quickly, perhaps, some say, too quickly.
Now, most straight folks have little fear of homosexuality, and gay bars become their joint du jour—to the horror of many men and women who wish they still had their sacred space free of bachelorette parties (read Drew Droege's take on this phenomenon).
While we don't think the battle of the dance floor will be won anytime soon (and probably shouldn't even be fought), gay bars, even in the age of social integration and online communities, remain an integral space for LGBT communities the world over.
As with any list, it's impossible to be definitive. We've taken nominations, suggestions, polled friends and experts around the world, and even done a bit of on-the-ground research. We've also tried to arrive at a list that satisfies everyone from a pierced and leather-clad cub to a skinny, go-go boy wannabe. But we're sure that this will only stoke the fires of debate.
So what is the best gay bar in the world?
THE SQUARE: To be fair, Akron isn't known for its hopping gay scene, but The Square would shine even in a more populated city. Roomy without feeling empty, full of friendly folks without being crowded and hip without taking itself too seriously, it's square not to hit this spot when cruising through Akron.
MAD MYRNA'S: You can't see
Alaska Russia from it, but you can see a bevy of hot men at this Anchorage mega-club.
ATLANTA , Georgia
BLAKE'S ON THE PARK: This spot has been a neighborhood institution for decades and remains the hub of Atlanta gayest area, Midtown. Whether it's drag shows or boys in baseball caps, there's usually something for everyone at this watering hole.
CHURCH: Officially known as Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, Grant Henry's unusual joint has transformed a corner of Edgewood (an underutilized neighborhood near downtown Atlanta) into a hip destination only a few blocks from the Martin Luther King Historic District. Although a straight-friendly hangout, the gay boys pack the place nightly.
THE EAGLE: Since 1987, this low-key leather bar has been the hot spot for bears and boys in Atlanta. The men are “woof’-worthy, the cruising hall, sports room and dance floor are always packed at the city’s oldest, long-standing gay bar.
HERETIC: After many of the others have come and gone, this remains one of the liveliest (and most scandalous) dance floors in the city—which makes it one of the easiest places to meet someone without having to use an app.
MARY'S: Located in hipsterish East Atlanta Village, Mary’s is well known for its karaoke nights and for attracting the cooler crowds. With strong drinks and a mini dance floor, the flirty bar’s theme nights range from outrageous to downright unsavory: Hanky Code Party, XXXMess, Get Stuffed, and the new drag night, Gurlfrandz.
MY SISTER’S ROOM: Every night is ladies’ night at this legendary lesbian sports bar and grill. Voted by GA Magazine as the best place in the city to meet women, this East Atlanta Village nightclub features hot ladies, hot shows and hot music, with the famed ’The King of Thrones Drag Show’, and Karaoke Crazy Nights every Wednesday.
TEN ATLANTA: A new addition to the scene, Ten Atlanta replaced a beloved hamburger joint downtown, spiffed up the joint with a chic makeover, and now serves up hot beef in food form by day and in go-go boy form by night.
THE IRON BEAR: Brotherhood of the Bear. Touted as “a bar for Bears by Bears”, this drama-free venue is one of the newest gay bars on the Austin scene and one of its friendliest. With the weekly Wild West Casino Games, DJ parties, and this year’s 1st Annual Mr. Leather Bar Austin, this is THE urban bear bar in the city.
OIL CAN HARRY'S : Open for nearly a quarter of a century, this hotspot hasn't lost its edge—recently attracting the women from RuPual’s Drag Race. In the Warehouse District, DJs spin quirky, creative sets while people swig drinks on patio, cowboys play pool, and University of Texas students go wild during Temptation Thursdays—with an all-male strip off.
GRAND CENTRAL: Nestled within the city’s historic Mount Vernon district, this gayborhood bar complex set in an old row home, has a little something for everyone with three rooms and three wildly different vibes: The Disco is one of Baltimore’s best hi-tech dance floors. The Pub, with its killer drink specials, is modeled after a turn of the century train station, and The Loft has a sexy, leather-clad lounge with an outdoor patio and pool tables.
THE LOFT: More of a pansexual, pangender bar than an outright gay bar, this LGBTQ-friendly dance club and sports bar caters to the karaoke crowd and is attached to a popular Cajun restaurant and Wild Willy’s Casino.
THE EAGLE: Think of this as the Cheers of the South End. Although the name may put off some who expect a hardcore leather bar experience, it's more about the friendly ambiance of Jack, the longtime proprietor, that keeps people coming here to tell (and make) stories.
FRITZ: Who is there for the game of pick-up or to be picked up? Sometimes it's difficult to tell, but It does make sense that one of the best gay sports bars is in a city that loves its teams (and has so many college boys trying to figure things out once they come out). Located in the ground floor of the Chandler Inn, it's a fave for all stripes.
RED SQUARE: You'll get an upclose and personal feel for the beat of this town on Red Square's dance floor, a space populated largely by college kids and the odd hippie, all of whom only enhance the experience.