When it comes to queer nightlife in Los Angeles, West Hollywood is the current 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 LGBTQ+ venues 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 these spots instead. Here are our 17 favorite.
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.
Open since 2015, Precinct’s arrival in downtown signaled a few things. For one, it once again 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.
Even after a year-long quarantine, your weekend bar routine will no doubt become stale at some point, and when that moment arrives, head to Plaza. The La Brea drag bar is one of the most entertaining nights in LA. It’s unassuming from the outside, but inside, there’s a massive dance floor, a full proscenium stage, and a cash-only bar serving a dirt cheap drinks(generally under $6) all night long. Also, you get chips every time you order a drink. God is real, and she’s at Plaza ready to party. Reopening date: TBD.
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 flirty, 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 drag brunch is also not to be ignored.
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. Reopening date: TBD.
This historic Downtown Latinx dive bar has been around for decades 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 and queer programming in the neighborhood. After a successful Gofundme campaign in Winter 2021, which saw the bar raise over $82,000, New Jalisco Bar is set to reopen imminently.
We respect any bar that pulls off a punny name, and Hi Tops has that going for it. This popular SF-transplant is still pretty new by West Hollywood standards, and for that reason alone, it’s crowded. The high-school-themed space is big and open, which is ideal for people to stand around and look at each other until somebody makes the first move. Tuesday night trivia is very popular, and some people here are actually watching sports unironically. That said, the most surprising aspect of this place is their excellent craft cocktails. So instead of your usual vodka soda, go for the mezcal-heavy Magic Hour, or The Claw, which is made with gin and cardamom bitters.
Bayou is a Mardi Gras-themed dive bar in the heart of the West Hollywood, and your first stop before a night of personal debauchery. Their late-night Happy Hour runs from 10:30pm-12:30am, including $2 draft 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.
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.
In reality, St. Felix is far less a gay bar and much more a place to just hang out, eat good food, and people watch on the patio. Located smack in the center of all the action, the bigger scenes here happen during the week, when the after-work crowd invades for the fantastic Happy Hour, or on Sunday afternoons for brunch. St. Felix is your cool gay aunt who still knows how to have fun - but keeps her life together at the same time.
This rowdy piano bar on Cahuenga is one of our favorite bars to open in LA in a long time. Come here almost any night of the week and you’ll be treated to Wicked sing-alongs, drag queen cabarets, and waitresses belting Celine Dion while pouring tequila shots. This is the kind of bar you stumble into with your friends because you heard singing from the sidewalk, and leave three hours later wishing you had stuck with musical theater in high school. It will be reopening in early July.
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. Reopening date: TBD.
Pasadena isn’t the first place most people think when it comes to gay nightlife, but it is home to Boulevard, a queer institution that’s been around for almost 40 years. While you can always expect affordable drinks and a low-key crowd here, what makes Boulevard so special is their nightly karaoke and the extremely high chance of a well-known drag queen dropping in for a song or two. After a successful GoFundMe that saw the space raise over $35,000 in two months, Boulevard is officially open for busines.
We love Redline because it’s one of the few queer bars Downtown where you can come in for a well-made cocktail after-work and talk to a bartender who will actually listen. That being said, if you do feel like leaning into the revelry a bit, Redline has incredible queer programing throughout the week. That includes guest DJs, RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties, and various events helping raise money and awareness for local LGBT non-profits.
Hamburger Mary’s isn’t much of a nightlife fixture, but come Saturday and Sunday afternoon, 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 the best show in a parking lot in town. 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.
Who doesn’t want to drink in a bar named after a Bette Midler movie that deals with the crippling effects of viral cardiomyopathy? With a heavy Miami-in-the-80s aesthetic, this two-story bar actually does promise plenty of fun things, like bottomless brunch specials, alcoholic slushies, and Legendary viewing parties during the week. No one comes to Weho just to go to Beaches, but if you’re stumbling around the neighborhood, it’s a reliable pit-stop where the party never lulls.
If you look up “complete and utter shtstorm” 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 the death of a Golden Girl to free your mind and let clear liquor do the rest. The dancers are attractive, the drinks are strong, and you can always expect a well-known drag queen or two to stop by and stir up some drama. Reopening date: TBD.*