Photo: Brittany Petronella
No city on earth has as many gayborhoods as New York: Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, the West and East Villages, and even parts of Brooklyn are home to some of the most fun, fab and historically significant gay clubs in the world. There’s familiar longtime nightspots like Stonewall and Marie’s Crisis in the Village or Metropolitan in Brooklyn or the Albatross in Astoria, as well as relative newcomers like Flaming Saddles and Rise in Hell’s Kitchen. While many NYC bars and clubs open and shutter weeks later, these venerable venues are classic, reliable bars that never go out of style, where you’ll always find a friendly crowd and an inviting atmosphere. Here’s a list of some of our faves.
Photo: Malcom Brown
Stonewall is one of the most important gay bars in the world. It’s where the modern gay rights movement started in 1969, and it continues to be a gathering spot for monumental occasions within the LGBTQ+ community. But it’s not just a landmark—it still has a lively scene with great drink specials and cute bartenders. A little history and some big hunks...what’s not to love?
Julius. Photo: Malcolm Brown
Julius’ is one of the oldest gay bars in City. What’s their secret? Meat…in the form of burgers, that is! They serve up some tasty $6 burgers on an old-school grill, along with great happy hour cocktails at the long wooden bar. The early scene here skews more mature, but late nights the youngsters often take over for impromptu parties and special events.
Boxers. Photo: JJ Mack
Boxers is a gay sports bar with locations in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen that’s become quite the staple, hosting huge nightly crowds due to its clean atmosphere, shirtless bartenders and great food (including brunch!). You’ll want to go for Music Video Mondays and their happy hour deals throughout the week.
Two years ago, Rise joined the growing Hell’s Kitchen scene with nightlife vets like Ted Arenas and John Blair at the helm. It’s become a sleek and sophisticated Ninth Avenue staple, featuring a youngish crowd, great music and delicious drinks.
The Ritz is an uber-popular gay bar with three main areas: a bar in the front for mingling and cruising, a back room where DJs play great music to dance to with your friends and an upstairs lounge for even more dancing. Come on Thursdays for Beers & Bears night, where you’ll find sexy go-go boys dancing inches away from you, good beer specials and an assortment of beefy dudes.
Therapy. Photo: Tom Johnson
Therapy is a bi-level club that hosts some of the best drag shows during the week, and an all-night extravaganza called Insomnia Friday with DJ A. J. Sanchez that kicks off the weekend. And unlike most gay bars, they actually have a terrific menu to pair with their drinks. So if you want to eat a tasty Cobb salad while enjoying a fabulous drag show, Therapy is the place.
Atlas brings retro to HK with its old-timey athletic decor featuring boxing and wrestling memorabilia. The crowd here is mixed to mature, and often SRO on weekends. Their Truth or Dare Thursday night event is worth checking out, which includes two-for-one drinks and prize giveaways for playing the eponymous game.
Queens-based Club Evolution claims to be the lone gay Latin dance club in New York City (though there are a number of Latin gay bars in Jackson Heights, where it resides). So if you’re a fan of Latino men, or happen to be one, this is the place to be; they host a different party each night that blends the latest in pop and hip-hop with a ton of bachata, reggaetón and salsa. The expansive club has several sections, including a VIP Party Area and the Kantina Lounge, which is more subdued than the dance floor.
Flaming Saddles. Photo: Julie Glassberg
Flaming Saddles gives you a country-music-meets-Broadway vibe. This Wild West–themed bar features smoking hot, boot-scooting bartenders who jump up on top of the bar for some lively line dancing. With a country jukebox and their famed Frito Pie, this a Hell’s Kitchen favorite.
The Toolbox is one of the Upper East Side’s last remaining gay bars, but it’s a damn fine one. It’s gay-owned, with friendly bartenders, no attitude and an in-house DJ on the weekends. During the week, an Internet jukebox will play whatever you want ensuring every night here rocks.
Metropolitan was one of the first gay bars in Williamsburg. It has a fabulous and festive outdoor patio popular in the warmer months, and a toasty fireplace to keep you cozy during the colder ones. Great drink specials and dancing give you a reason to head over on the L train to see what this iconic Brooklyn hot spot has to offer.
Industry is a spacious, clubby spot in Hell’s Kitchen with a bustling happy hour each day from 4 to 9pm. It generally attracts a great mix of guys and even some gals on their way home from work. The club also plays host to drag shows starring legends like Monet Xchange and Sherry Vine.
If you want to be transported to a time when gay bars didn’t involve selfies and cell phones, Marie’s Crisis may be your best bet. Located in a below-ground space on Grove Street, it’s a lively place for musical theater performers and fans to gather around an upright piano and sing along to their Broadway favorites; the pianists’ playlist includes Oklahoma, Hairspray and pretty much everything in between. Monday night is a great time to go: you may see real Broadway performers singing on their night off.
The iconic Eagle is the last of the leather bars that lined the far west side of Manhattan before gentrification and parks took over. It’s a multilevel, dimly lit space with an uninhibited vibe and regular themed nights featuring a more mature crowd (40s and up). Saturday nights tend to be the busiest times, except for warm summer Sunday afternoons when the popular Beer Blast attracts throngs of guys to socialize on the roof while guzzling cheap brews.
This neighborhood fixture, around since the 1980s, has it all: a friendly bar for cocktails, a piano lounge for singing and great dance music downstairs. We especially love their classic Tea Dance on Sundays, where you can get down to some familiar jams.
While the gay bar scene may be on the wane in Chelsea, Barracuda continues to thrive. Voted best bar by several different publications over its 20-plus years in business, it offers a fun and friendly environment to mix and mingle, with a small stage in the back to see some of the best drag performers in the City.
Rockbar is known as a one of the best bear bars in the City. Located near the western end of Christopher Street in the West Village, it hosts popular events such as weekly Beer Blasts on Sundays, karaoke nights and some sexy “underbear” parties featuring the hottest bears, otters and cubs (oh my!) in town. Woof indeed.
Ty’s is a Christopher Street institution that’s been around for 45 years, attracting a bearish crowd that tends to be over 30. A homey, comfortable space with exposed brick walls, this is the place to be if you want to hang with the daddy bears.
At The Hangar, you’ll find an incredible mix of men of all races creating a happy and friendly atmosphere from the moment you walk in. While there, head toward the back to play a game of pool while jamming to a variety of music.
This West Village staple started out as a leather bar but is now known for its campy and fun drag shows. See some of the best queens NYC has to offer, like Kareem McJagger and Brita Filter, and be sure to tip the sexy go-go boys who dance on the bar.
Pieces is another longstanding West Village gay bar. Every night offers a different event, whether it’s crazy drag shows, underwear parties or the ever-popular Tuesday night karaoke.
If two words can describe this East Village location, they have to be “irreverence” and “originality.” A neighborhood fave for years, Eastern Bloc has a younger crowd who flock to a host of events as varied as Logo viewing parties and celebrations of all things Chaka Khan.
This legendary haunt fills up after midnight for some late-night fun with naughty go-go boys and a sexy crowd. This is definitely the type of place where inhibitions are left at the door.
This East Village hot spot has become the go-to place for RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties and a standby for drink specials, cute bartenders and private events. It skews towards a younger demographic.
This East Village bar serves up a variety of draft beers and puts on themed nights for people of all types to enjoy, notably their bear night on Tuesdays. We prefer to come on Mondays for the smoking hot go-go boys. And if you get hungry, there’s always Artichoke Pizza right next door.
Gym is one of the few gay bars left on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, providing two floors of fun, excitement and live sports on multiple TVs. The smoking patio in the front along the avenue is a popular place to see and be seen, whether or not you’re a smoker.
Just a couple blocks from Times Square, Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up hosts weekly drag competitions, comedy variety shows and karaoke hosted by Blackie O. If you’re looking for a fun environment that throws some of the city’s best gay events, Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up should be at the top of your list.
Ninth Avenue Saloon is Hell’s Kitchen’s longest-running gay bar, having opened its doors over 30 years ago. This laid-back, friendly pub also includes a photo booth, a popcorn machine and an old-school jukebox.
Posh was the one of the original gay bars in Hell’s Kitchen, and has a well-worn yet welcoming feel to it. It’s a great place to bring some friends to hang out on Bingo Mondays, Sexy Saturdays or Retro Sundays.
You don’t need to be in Manhattan to find a great gay bar—Queens has them too, including this friendly spot located in Astoria. Albatross boasts a neighborhood vibe with its very popular karaoke on Friday, 2-4-1 happy hours and drag bingo. It’s touted as the “Gay Cheers.”
After 15 years in business, Excelsior recently moved to a larger location in Park Slope. It now occupies two floors of fun and craziness but retains a down-to-earth vibe, serving up retro music, delicious drinks and a great mixed crowd of young and mature men.