Bedlam. Photo: Alexander Thompson
The East Village has been New York City’s premier alternative enclave for decades, with a social scene that’s known for being daring and creative—and far less fussy and formulaic—than other NYC neighborhoods. The area’s heavy concentration of students, artists and performers spills over into its nightlife, which includes not just an array of offbeat bars but also numerous performance spaces that often host bold LGBTQ+ themed works.
Step down into the East Village’s favorite basement party. This low-ceilinged space features a long bar and an eclectic, friendly blend of customers. DJs often get the crowd moving with quirky and irresistible mixes. Check the schedule for popular themed events, like TV-watch parties and bear nights.
The East Village’s newest queer bar is also its artsiest and craftiest. Beloved actor and bon vivant Alan Cumming teamed up with NYC gay nightlife impresario Daniel Nardicio to create this enclave for cabaret, creativity and kink in the former Eastern Bloc space, with everything from club nights to knitting circles to sexy drawing sessions.
The Boiler Room
The neighborhood’s longest running gay dive bar has watched its heydays come and go over the past quarter century; yet it still packs them in, enduring as the area’s go-to destination for low-frills fun. The crowd is wildly diverse, as is its legendary jukebox.
Welcome to the East Village’s raunchiest gay bar, where cruising is heavy and public displays of affection are common. It’s one of the few neighborhood bars to charge a cover, but you get what you pay for: dirty dancing and beefy go-go guys galore.
A laid-back cornerstone of the East Village scene, Phoenix has stayed true to its roots as a fun and attitude-free hangout for gay locals, with rotating weeknight activities like trivia, bingo, karaoke and, of course, Drag Race on Thursdays.
Deep in the east East Village on Avenue C, Bedlam is the hood’s most hipster-y gay den, complete with a huge ski-lodge-style moose head looking down on the proceedings. Co-owned by Anderson Cooper’s ex, Ben Maisani, it draws a mixed crowd and holds one of the area’s most lively dance floors.
Photo: Grace Chu
Pumping fresh lesbian/queer energy into the East Village scene after several years on the west side, the bi-weekly Friday party Hot Rabbit takes place at Avenue A’s Drom. It’s adored not just for its female friendliness but for its embrace of all colors of the LGBTQ+ rainbow, and the positive and inclusive vibe has landed it on numerous “Best of NYC Gay Nightlife” lists.
Joe's Pub. Photo: Tammy Shell
The cabaret-style venue of the Public Theater, Joe’s Pub regularly hosts queer performers like Billy Eichner, Justin Vivian Bond and Lea DeLaria. Remarkably, gay icons Amy Winehouse and Adele both landed their first American club shows here.
Performance Space New York
Set in a former public school, Performance Space New York (formerly known as PS 122) has hosted countless alternative performance luminaries since it opened in 1980, including Eddie Izzard and Karen Finley. Today it continues to mount many daring shows with LGBTQ+ themes.
The last of the original Off-Off-Broadway theaters from the 1960s, La MaMa continues its dedication to the avant-garde. It frequently hosts LGBTQ+ focused shows and is home to the annual La MaMa’s Squirts festival of queer performance.
The Wild Project
Head to this intimate venue for a broad variety of theater, film, music and visual arts. The Wild Project often holds queer-themed events and performances, including August’s East Village Queer Film Festival.