The Best Queer Bars In Los Angeles
Our favorite spots for queer nightlife in LA.
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 overpriced vodka sodas you were planning on going to tonight, and start drinking at these spots instead. Here are some of our favorites.
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.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
The Ruby Fruit
The Ruby Fruit might be the most joyously raucous wine bar we’ve ever been to. The Silver Lake queer space is the first lesbian bar to open in LA in over a decade and already feels like a lived-in community pillar. The small strip mall spot is wall-to-wall people every night, with the party often spilling out onto the sidewalk and even the parking lot. As much fun as it is at night, be sure to swing by during the day when the colorful space turns into a welcoming diner/co-working space with fantastic comfort food like tuna melts, breakfast sandwiches, and raclette-covered curly fries.
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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.
Everybody's weekend bar routine becomes 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.
photo credit: Chelsea Lauren
Taking over the legendary Gold Coast space, Or Bar opened in 2022 and has already become a go-to drinking spot in West Hollywood. Yes, $18 craft cocktails are egregious even for Weho, but we appreciate that Or Bar is more than just a four-walled room filled with Britney remixes and 24-year-olds standing around on Grindr. People here are actually hanging out, and if you can believe it, talking. The place skews loungey, but not in a tacky, bottle service kind of way. There are plush, comfy banquettes, and a giant, amoeba-shaped chandelier over the bar. It’s retro, kitschy, and gives off the energy of a well-attended dinner party in Palm Springs.
photo credit: Honey's At Star Love
Honey's At Star Love
Honey's is a clubby queer bar at Star Love (a colorful cocktail spot in East Hollywood) where there’s something happening on any given night: karaoke Wednesdays, upbeat house DJ sets, comedy nights, even queer night markets. There's a wraparound bar up front and a dance room in the back, so even if you come out on a weekday, it’ll feel like a Friday night. While this place is lesbian-focused, it’s very inclusive of everyone. They’ve got $10 well drinks Wednesday through Saturday from 6-8pm, and they’re usually strong enough that you’d only need one or two before hopping on stage to perform your fully choreographed dance to “Fergalicious.”
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.
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.
photo credit: Brant Cox
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 daily Happy Hour goes until 8pm with $3 beers, $5 well 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.
photo credit: Brant Cox
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 the neighborhood. 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.
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.
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 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 a Detroit Vesey's drag brunch residency that runs Friday through Sunday.
Hamburger Mary’s is all about three words: Drag Queen Bingo. Come Sunday afternoon, get intimate with some bottomless mimosas, text an ex at brunch, and stick around until 6pm when the best bingo in the world commences. Hamburger Mary’s might not be much of a nightlife fixture but on Sundays it’s a flat-out destination that you need to work into your schedule—especially if you have people visiting from out of town.
The Abbey Food & Bar
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 brunch is equally as wonderful.