When it comes to gay nightlife in Los Angeles, West Hollywood is the undisputed king. But this city’s gay culture is vast, with more levels to it than a few tequila-soaked blocks along Santa Monica Blvd your out-of-town friends want to go to. From the Silver Lake leather bars to downtown’s massive warehouse parties, LA’s greatest gay bars are also the most interesting ones. So skip that generic video bar with $17 vodka sodas you were planning on going to tonight, and start drinking at the best gay bars this city has to offer. Here are our 16 favorite.
Open since 2015, Precinct’s arrival in downtown signaled a few things. For one, it solidified DTLA as a legitimate gay nightlife destination. Secondly, it allowed us to put events like “Springtime Beef Ball” and “Bear Bust” into our Google calendars. Mostly though, it gave LA its best new gay bar in years. Precinct is one of those places that’s so big, with so many different crowds, you can have whatever kind of night you came looking for. Want to catch a drag show? Post-up all night on the patio? Debut your death drop on the dance floor? It’s all possible at Precinct.
There are only so many $16 vodka sodas and blonde-haired boy bots you can handle in West Hollywood before you start actively Googling flights back to your hometown. Put your phone away, and go to Akbar. The Los Feliz dive gets rowdy when it wants to, but it’s still the antithesis to the stand-and-stare culture that’s taken over the majority of Weho. Akbar’s crowd is unpretentious, actually talking to each other, and always down for a good time. Strong, affordable drinks and a wild back dance floor don’t hurt either.
Bayou is a Mardi Gras-themed dive bar in the heart of the West Hollywood, and your first stop before a night of personal destruction. Their late-night Happy Hour runs from 10:30pm-12:30am, including $3 beers, $5 call drinks, and a front patio ideal for workshopping how many shirt buttons you want unbuttoned tonight. The place is small and you will be fully pressed up against someone you don’t know at some point, but the bartender just poured you a free shot of something clear, so suck it up.
You pregame, you go out to a bar, you dance with a guy you took an on-camera acting class with, and you go home. At some point, your weekend bar routine becomes stale and when that moment arrives, head to Plaza. The La Brea drag bar is easily one of the most entertaining nights you can have in LA. Despite looking like a closed-down laundromat from the outside, the interior is quite large, with a dirt cheap (and cash-only) bar and performances throughout the night. Also, you get Doritos every time you order a drink. God is real, and she’s here to party.
West Hollywood’s reputation for being squeaky clean and generic is, at this point, well-earned. But that doesn’t mean every bar is an Andrew Christian meet and greet. Take Fubar, the grungy bar away from the main action and one of Weho’s last real gay underground outlets. Its rougher edges keep out the tourists, leaving a neighborhood crowd that’s ready to get weird. And by weird, we mean you will probably (definitely) see a dancer’s butthole. Fubar’s most popular nights vary, but Thursday’s “BFD” night is its best-known. If you can’t figure out what that acronym means, we’d recommend sticking to the Andrew Christian meet and greets.
Greetings from one of the most iconic gay bars in the entire country, and probably the world. The Abbey is big and chaotic and full of people who definitely don’t live in Los Angeles, but if you’re looking for the epicenter of gay LA nightlife, The Abbey is still where you go. The crowd is young and hot, the music is good, and it’s guaranteed to always be a party. That said, The Abbey is at its best midweek, when the carpooling teenagers and Brentwood moms have all gone home, leaving a crowd that’s far more local, but just as fun. Sunday brunch is not to be ignored.
Hamburger Mary’s isn’t much of a nightlife fixture, but come Sundays, it owns this town. Roll in at 11am with your friends, get a little rowdy on bottomless mimosas and blue cocktails, text an ex, and stick around for one of the best shows in town: drag queen bingo. Whether you’re visiting for the weekend or have lived here for 30 years, this is a rite-of-a-passage for anyone in West Hollywood. Tip: They do Wednesday bingo nights too, where the crowds are far more manageable.
The Valley isn’t exactly known to be overflowing with gay nightlife, but one place that continues to get everybody over the hill is Oil Can Harry’s. Since 1968, this Studio City cowboy bar has been the place to be for dirt cheap drinks, learning how to line dance with your friends, and emotionally connecting with a Cher impersonator. Saturday retro disco night is a great idea for a birthday party.
Bar Mattachine stands out from the rest of the downtown gay bars (and pretty much any other gay bar) because it’s a cocktail bar - with actually good cocktails. And while no one’s coming here to rip well tequila shots and drunk dial your tax guy, it’s not a complete snooze either. The music is always good, and there are weekly open mic nights and a drag queen or two hanging around to mix things up. Mattachine isn’t where you stay all night, but it’s definitely where you start it.
Once upon a bikram yoga studio, Silver Lake was an epicenter for gay nightlife in LA. Those days are over, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few relics hanging around. Namely, the Eagle. This bear-and -leather bar isn’t where you go if you like your bartenders skinny, waxed, and able to pick Kyle Krieger out of a line-up. It is where you go if you like cheap drinks, burly men, and your occasional on-stage piercing. There’s also a huge outdoor area if you need some air. Cash-only.
Gymbar is the only gay bar in West Hollywood that’s actually a legitimate sports bar. And by that we mean, you can drink vodka sodas with a baseball game playing distantly in the background. Expect a laid-back atmosphere, with a crowd comprised mostly of sweaty dodgeball players and a couple lost straight guys who still haven’t figured out they’re not at Barney’s Beanery. A few rounds of backwash flip-cup will occur at some point too.
You finally get the whole crew downtown and Precinct has a line wrapped around the block. Don’t panic, just walk two blocks over to New Jalisco. The classic dive bar has been around for at least 300 years and is the kind of place that takes a night from medium to crazy in a very short amount of time. The cash-only bar is small, but there’s a great dance floor in the back and a performance space featuring some of the best drag shows downtown.
If awards were given out to bars whose dancers perform above their pay grade, Flaming Saddles would sweep. The cowboy-themed bar opened a few years ago in Weho and proved to us all that go-go boys don’t have to spend all night gyrating awkwardly on boxes. The show put on by the Flaming Saddles dancers is nothing short of a Cirque Du Soleil in assless chaps and you will lose your voice scream/crying for them. The good-looking crowd, the upstairs dance floor, and the $13 bottomless mimosas on the weekends are just cherries on top.
If you look up “complete and utter sh*tstorm” in the dictionary, you will find Micky’s. This two-story vodka apocalypse in the heart of Weho is where you go after a messy breakup or a Drag Race double elimination to free your mind and let clear liquor do the rest. The dancers are attractive, the drinks are strong, and Monday’s “Showgirls” night is stacked with the some of the most well-known names in drag. They also have after-hours till 4am on the weekends - proceed accordingly.
Located between a Bottega Louie that nobody asked for and the botox swapmeet that is Pump, Mother Lode is a Weho classic, and the oldest surviving gay bar in Boystown. The crowd generally skews older and is far more laid-back and unaffected than its better-known neighbors. That said, this place can get absolutely wild any night of the week. Known for their mixed drinks that are actually just cups full of well tequila, Mother Lode is easily your fastest drunk in town. They also have billiards if you’re still able to hold a pool stick correctly.