As equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community slowly becomes the norm across the nation, a beautiful by-product has emerged: There are more places than ever for people of all sexual preferences to come together and party. Here in L.A., queer nightlife has long been a primary source for joyful revelry and creative expression, and promoters and owners alike keep evolving, growing and “(gay)me-changing” beyond social stereotypes, with new hot spots in new parts of town.
The Abbey: OK, so that E! TV show was a dud, but maybe that's because the vivacious energy in a space like the Abbey can't really be captured on film. The Abbey is not just a WeHo institution, it's an L.A. one, as much for its lively patio (and tasty food) as for the decadent disco inside. (Gay)me-changer: What other venue in L.A. has Elizabeth Taylor (it's a painting, but she did used to go there, so it's kind of like her ghost!) overlooking the action? None, darling. None. 692 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 289-8410, theabbeyweho.com.
The Chapel: Built to be “the best gay EDM party every night,” the Chapel at the Abbey is a little more secluded and smaller than the Abbey proper, which it is adjacent but not connected to. The go-go dancers are plentiful and the crowd is lively at one of the newest additions to the WeHo strip. (Gay)me-changer: The lights throughout the venue perfectly complement the music and make you feel more as if you're at a concert or a rave than a club. 696 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 289-8410, theabbeyweho.com/thechapel.
Flaming Saddles: Part Coyote Ugly, part honky-tonk and part Cirque du Soleil, Flaming Saddles in WeHo is freakier and more fiery than its New York counterpart. (Gay)me-changer: Having to adjust for a bigger space and different crowd, the owners began auditioning professional dancers — among them competitive pole dancers — to entertain patrons. Try not to be too mesmerized by the talent on display — it's the only gay bar on the WeHo strip where you may find yourself entranced by someone of the opposite sex! 8811 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 855-7501, flamingsaddles.com/weho.
Bar10: Friendly neighborhood bar meets wanton WeHo hub, Bar10 may not be as big as the Abbey or Flaming Saddles, but it still has room for a pool table, a giant bar and lots of dancing space. (Gay)me-changer: The music! A great mix of pop, top 40 and hip-hop hits of today and yesteryear. One minute you may be dancing to Cardi B and the next, spinning to Donna Summer or bumping to TLC. The eclectic mix with a taste for nostalgia is certain to please no matter what your musical taste. 8933 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 332-6445, bar10weho.com.
Revolver Video Bar: Once you enter through the revolving doors (sticking true to its name), Revolver Video Bar isn't a huge club, but it definitely is an energetic one. Those who want to dance can do so next to the bar inside, where the go-go dancers play and sway on platforms. Those who want to mingle do so on the front patio. (Gay)me-changer: Music videos! While you may be able to hear Madonna, Gaga or Whitney in many WeHo bars, there aren't a lot of bars where you can dance to the music while also watching the divas pose and prance via video screens. 8851 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 694-0430, revolverweho.com.
Fubar: Just east of the WeHo strip lies Fubar, a fun, outrageous gay bar that almost seems as if it's from a different time. A stark contrast to the glitz, spectacle and gaudiness of WeHo clubs like the Abbey, Fubar is dark, small and keeps it simple: sexy go-go dancers and music. (Gay)me-changer: The sheer unapologetic gayness (and dare I say ratchet-ness) of the bar: water gun competitions on the junk of the go-go dancers, gay porn on the TV screens, even the name of the bar (which stands for Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) or theme nights like Unloaded Friday or Thursday's B.F.D. party (an acronym for Big Fat Dick) celebrate homosexuality in a bold, brazen way. 7994 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 654-0396, fubarla.com.
Saint Felix: This is the perfect place to start a night out on the WeHo strip for drinks or dinner. The “California cuisine with an international edge” will leave you full enough to handle your drinks for the rest of the night but not too bloated to dance. And you may just run into a “gay”-list star sitting at the table next you, like a queen from RuPaul's Drag Race or an actor. (Gay)me-changer: For tequila fans, the Desperado cocktail features crushed red bell peppers, fresh mint, fresh-pressed orange and lime juice. 8945 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 275-4428, westhollywood.saintfelix.net.
The Bayou: A true dive bar, the Bayou is about the same size as a small studio apartment. But it's worth squeezing into the space, because the drink prices at this New Orleans–themed bar are some of the most affordable on the WeHo strip. Even the music playlist, created by the owners, gets everyone on their feet, making the Bayou a great place to kick off a night of partying. (Gay)me-changer: Two happy hours, one from 4 to 8 p.m. and one from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., seven days a week! 8939 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 273-3303, thebayouweho.com.
Gym Sportsbar: If you walk by most gay bars in WeHo when RuPaul's Drag Race is on, the way the crowd shouts and cheers at the television may seem more like they're watching a sporting event. If you walk by Gym Sportsbar in WeHo, the crowd actually is watching a sporting event. Self-described as “the first and only gay sports bar in Los Angeles,” the bar caters not only to sports lovers but also to players — the bar has played host to after or viewing parties for many gay leagues. (Gay)me-changer: The drink specials! There's 2-for-1 Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and then a different drink special from 9 p.m. until close. (Sunday Funday has its own specials as well.) 8737 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 659-2004, gymsportsbar.com/lahome.html.
Trunks: Another small bar on the strip akin to a dive bar (although its reconfiguration a few years back may escalate it a bit above dive-bar status), Trunks is a great place to start a night of drinking in WeHo. It's always a lively crowd! (Gay)me-changer: The slogan on the website says it all: “Where the spirits are high and the prices are low.” The best thing about Trunks is definitely the strong, cheap drinks. Few other places on the WeHo strip charge such reasonable prices for a single drink that will probably leave you sufficiently buzzed (or possibly more) by the time you finish it! 8809 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-1015, trunksbar.com.
Pump Restaurant: The brainchild of Lisa Vanderpump, the ambiance of Pump is befitting of a Real Beverly Hills Housewife: 100-year-old olive trees, lanterns and a Parisian bridge. Being seen at this trendy restaurant — popular for dinner and brunch — is almost more important than the food and drinks. (Gay)me-changer: The Pump-tini: With vodka, Pavan liqueur, fresh lime and muddled raspberry, this drink is both delicious and strong! 8948 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-7867, pumprestaurant.com.
Beaches: One of the newest additions to the WeHo strip, this cute, beach-themed bar has great music and great vibes. The upstairs has a lot of light during the day and also has some delicious “bar bites” if you get hungry. The bar offers some great social media photo ops, including a red neon sign that says “Hotel California.” (Gay)me-changer: The frozen drinks! How could a beach bar not have them? If you order them between 2 and 7 p.m. everyday, they're only $5. 8928 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 360-0395, beachesweho.com.
Fiesta Cantina: A member of the Cabo Cantina family, this Mexican-themed bar is a great stop for food and inexpensive drinks, including a 2-for-1 Happy Hour twice a night, daily. Be aware that the bar can get pretty packed during peak hours, even when the upstairs patio is opened. The giant, two-shot margaritas are fun and can really mess you up (in a good way). (Gay)me-changer: The Muchos Nachos, described on the menu as a “mountain of fresh tortilla chips,” are among the best nachos in town and can easily be shared by a large group. 8865 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-8865, fiestacantina.net/pages/location/westhollywood.aspx.
Rage: The aptly named hot spot endures on the Santa Monica strip thanks to wild promotions nightly including Musical Mondays (showtunes showoffs), New Queens on the Block (they've got the right stuff), the long-running Gameboi (Asian night) and Latin Saturdays (Latino go-gos + music). (Gay)me-changer: Don't miss the fierce kiddies from Haus of Starr, who host hot drag shows on Thursdays. 8911 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 652-7055, ragenightclub.com.
Micky's: Like Rage, Micky's has been around for a long time and it never disappoints for dancing to Top 40, diva hits, disco, etc. There's also a pretty great comedy night, Ruthless People, and drink specials most evenings. (Gay)me-changer: Monday night's Showgirls, hosted by RuPaul's Drag Race alum Raven, is the place to see Ru's rejects and winners alike doing what they do best. 8857 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-1176, mickys.com.
Mother Lode: Since 1979, this dark and dirty gay bar has been grinding away, a solid choice for men on the make every night of the week, any time of year. (Gay)me-changer: The hottest night has gotta be Tuesday's “The Hole,” Dirty Burty's glorious boy bash with hard-body go-go guys grinding in their undies and DJs spinning groove-driven mixes that make you want to join them. 8944 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 659-9700. More info here.
Gold Coast Bar: Not much has changed since we referenced Gold Coast's “run-down, old (wo)man-ish interior,” and how it “provides a stark contrast to Santa Monica Boulevard's more bodacious hot spots” — and that's why locals still love it. It's a proper dive with cheap drinks, a colorful, multigenerational crowd, and vibes that go from chill to flamboyant thrill as the night goes on. (Gay)me-changer: Happy hour drinks have old-school prices and are poured heavy, honey! 8228 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 656-4879, goldcoastweho.com.
Hamburger Mary's: Forget about french fries, when it comes to the burgers here, the best side dish is drag. The legendary Drag Bingo nights are always a hoot with big prizes, plus some of the money made goes to charity. Other fierce and flavorful nights include Dreamgirls Revue and a tempestuous trivia night themed to Disney, Gilmore Girls, Golden Girls and RuPaul's Drag Race. (Gay)me-changer: disco balls in the bathrooms and a sequined high heel as the check holder. 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 654-3800, hamburgermarys.com/weho/.
The Birdcage: A relative newcomer to the Westside gay community, the Birdcage is located on the top floor of the Victorian in Santa Monica. The club has dancing, giant Jenga sets to play with and a fabulous Sunday Funday that includes brunch on the patio. The owners even have plans to partner with the California Heritage Museum across the street to create a new LGBT museum and cultural center. (Gay)me-changer: The Birdcage set up its own Beach Club from May through September, and a free membership card gets you access to a closed-off area of the beach specifically for the Birdcage. While there, you can enjoy butler service for food and non-alcoholic beverages or partake in complimentary beach activities such as paddle boarding or volleyball. 2640 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 396-2469, thebirdcagesm.com.
The Roosterfish: The Roosterfish is back in business after closing its doors two years ago. Originally opened in 1979, the bar has always been a staple of the Westside gay community. Although the Roosterfish is less dicey and has more expensive drinks than it did in its former life, the resurrection of this Venice bar is momentous. (Gay)me-changer: The ceiling of the men's bathroom is plastered in pornographic images of men — a nice reminder that you're in a gay bar in case you may have forgotten. 1302 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 392-2123, facebook.com/pages/Rooster-Fish/113296965371344.
Bar Mattachine: The name references the Mattachine Society (a legendary 1950s Los Angeles-based gay rights organization) and it just sounds … chic, doesn't it? Fitting, because Mattachine isn't your typical gay bar. From the moment it opened in October 2015, the focus was on finely crafted cocktails, i.e., the bartenders aren't just eye candy; they know their stuff. With a roomy downstairs area and cozy upstairs, there's plenty of nooks to nuzzle a date or a new friend. (Gay)me-changer: The Reconditioner, a drink with three types of rum, of which the menu says, “If you're straight, it will definitely turn you gay.” 221 W. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 278-0471, barmattachine.com.
Redline: Named after not only the Metro line that runs through downtown but also for the historic L.A. light rail, the Red Car, Redline is a pillar of the downtown LGBT scene. Until the kitchen closes, Redline presents as a relaxing lounge/restaurant, but as the night goes on, it turns into a banging club. (Gay)me-changer: The tortellini dish features a house-made butter/cream/Parmesan sauce that will make your taste buds dance as festively as you will when the bar turns from restaurant to club. 131 E. Sixth St., downtown; (213) 935-8391, redlinedtla.com.
Precinct: The biggest gay club downtown, Precinct attracts a loyal and eclectic crowd that packs the dance floor, which offers rotating themes every Saturday, such as Bear and Latin Night. The kitchen is open late and serves delicious bar food to satisfy your drunk cravings. (Gay)me-changer: Every Friday night, drag legends the Boulet Brothers host their own night called Queen Kong, which features some of the most popular and exciting drag talent around. 357 S. Broadway, downtown; (213) 628-3112, precinctdtla.com.
The New Jalisco: Downtown's oldest gay bar is a cash-only Mexican dive bar. The drinks are cheap and strong, but don't worry, the bar sometimes offers a buffet of food to soak up the alcohol. (Gay)me-changer: On certain nights, the New Jalisco features some of the most talented, undiscovered Latin drag talent around, performing everything from Shakira to Celia Cruz. 245 S. Main St., downtown; (213) 613-1802.
The Bullet Bar: The only leather bar in the San Fernando Valley, the Bullet Bar has been around since 1983 but has been a gay fetish bar under different names since the '60s. It's very much a friendly neighborhood bar, where a lot of the patrons are regulars and know one another. Although the Bullet specializes in leather (and even sells gear), it definitely respects diversity; theme nights include a monthly drag show, a hot rock night and a cigar bar night. (Gay)me-changer: One of the most popular times to visit is during happy hour, which runs from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and includes $3 well drinks and domestic beer bottles (weekends have their own drink specials). 10522 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 762-8890, bulletbarla.com.
C. Frenz Bar and Nightclub: Self-described as “L.A.'s friendliest gay bar,” C. Frenz first opened in 2005 but has been around as a gay bar in different forms since the '70s. The place is more upscale sports/dive bar than fancy club, with theme nights including Underwear Night on Mondays, Karaoke Tuesdays and a drag show on Sundays called Divas of the Valley. (Gay)me-changer: The bar's relaxed, friendly vibe! Most C. Frenz patrons praise the welcoming atmosphere that truly makes this a beloved neighborhood bar. 7026 Reseda Blvd., Reseda; (818) 996-2976, cfrenzbar.com.
Oil Can Harry's: Oil Can Harry's is described by its owners as a “blast from the past,” and not just because of the music played. Opened in 1968 alongside sister bars in San Francisco and Palm Springs (which are both gone), Oil Can Harry's has been called the “oldest gay bar west of the Mississippi.” While the bar may specialize in country-Western nights, it also has disco and sometimes jazz nights as well. And there's an upstairs area for karaoke. (Gay)me-changer: The line dancing. No matter what genre of music is playing, the dance floor will be packed with happy people line dancing in unison — not something you'll see at any other gay bar! 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 760-9749, oilcanharrysla.com.
Club Cobra: Billed online as “the best Latin gay bar in Los Angeles,” Club Cobra is the closest thing there is to a traditional gay club in the San Fernando Valley (with a Latin twist, of course). The music is a mix of Latin songs as well as popular Top 40, packing the dance floor on busy nights. (Gay)me-changer: Club Cobra may be a Latin club, but it's also very inclusive, especially for the Trans community: all of the female bartenders are trans and their Thursday night party is called “Trans Fix.” 10937 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 760-9798, https://www.clubcobrala.com.
Club Chico: Chico is billed online as “the best Latino gay bar in Los Angeles.” Club Chico opened in the '90s with the goal of being the first gay nightclub in East L.A., and to this day it still is the only one (east of downtown). Great DJs keep the dance floor constantly packed. (Gay)me-changer: A late-night happy hour nightly from 9 to 11 p.m. that includes $4 beers and $5 well drinks. 2915 W. Beverly Blvd., Montebello; (323) 721-3403, clubchico.com.
Tigerheat: Tigerheat is big. Big room, big hits, big crowds. It remains L.A.'s largest weekly gay party, attracting the millennial LGBTQ masses in the latest mall garb showing off the latest moves to the latest hit videos. Jason Lavitt and Ray Rhodes man the decks for this night of youthful grooving. (Gay)me-changer: The location in the heart of Hollywood. Avalon, 1735 Vine St., Hollywood; (323) 467-4571, facebook.com/clubtigerheat/.
Voss Events' Drag Brunch: Brandon Voss, known by many as 'The Drag Guy,' recently brought his successful Drag Brunch to the Rockwell Table & Stage every Saturday afternoon after opening in other cities around the country, including Las Vegas, New York and Orlando. The performers are a rotating door of contestants from RuPaul's Drag Race and typically include Manila Luzon, Ongina and Jessica Wild. (Gay)me Changer: The show is hosted by the hilarious and legendary queen Jackie Beat, who's worth the price of admission herself!
At Rockwell Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (888) 885-VOSS. https://vossevents.com/events/drag-brunch/los-angeles.
Faultline: From butch to bears, drag to divas, variety vamps up the Faultline this days. The lusty (mostly) leather bar offers parties with names like Take It Off Thursdays and Ma-Donna Summer (melding the Material Girl and the disco bad girl), attracting colorful crowds for dancing, drinking and cruising. (Gay)me-changer: The bar's legendary beer busts on Sundays make for the most bodacious bash you'll find to close out the weekend. 4216 Melrose Ave., East Hollywood; (323) 660-0889. faultlinebar.com.
Akbar: Over 20 years and still pumping in Sunset Junction, the exotic spot attracts a giddy glut of gay and straight hip cliques nightly. Top-notch DJs spin in the dance room and there's a killer jukebox in the loungey bar area. (Gay)me-changer: Mario Diaz's Full Frontal Disco is still going strong, presenting dance performances, fierce go-go grinding and duo Slash Fiction burning up the DJ booth. 4356 Sunset Blvd. Silver Lake; (323) 665-6810, akbarsilverlake.com.
Cavern Club: Located below Casita del Campo restaurant in Silver Lake, Cavern Club's fabulously droll drag happenings continue to transcend the “lip sync for your life” model seen on RuPaul's Drag Race. The shows are cross-dressed comic genius, melding musical theater with lots of ironic drama, dress-up, dance and performance art, all within dark and cozy confines. (Gay)me-changer: Delicious Mexican food upstairs makes this a different sort of dinner theater, and as always, you can bring your margaritas into all the shows. 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; (323) 969-2530, cavernclubtheater.com.
Eagle: This authentic leather bar can get rather lascivious at times, which means you wont find boozed up bachelorette party girl posses in dick jewelry taking over. Events like Mr. Leather and Mr. Bear contests, “Tightwad Tuesdays” (cheap men, cheap beer) and “Meatrack,” combined with the decor (neon genitals on the wall and gay porn on the screens) keep things pure here or un-pure, as the case may be. (Gay)me-changer: Sunday beer busts here themed to jocks and lumberjacks. 4219 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake; 323-669-9472, eaglela.com/home.htm.
ROAMING/PROMOTERS OF NOTE
In addition to the above LGBTQ-driven locales, Los Angeles offers countless queer and queer-friendly gatherings at venues that aren't specifically gay but get taken over on certain nights by promoters and DJs with fierce followings. It's impossible to shout out every single one, especially since some are sort of occasional, but here are a few you should know about:
Evita: Currently at Bootsy Bellows, Andres Rigal's glamorous night of dancing and prancing brings out nightlife royalty. More info here.
Summertramp: Rigal's waterpark-themed shindig is a wet & wild summer staple. More info here.
Mustache: Formerly at La Cita, then the Lash, on Mondays, the legendary shindig brings DJs and ambisexual performance art very “out” on various nights now, usually in DTLA. More info here.
Sex Cells/Queen Bitch: Danny Fuentes from Lethal Amounts throws the biggest androgynous dressup/club kid bacchanals in the city at the moment. More info here.
A Club Called Rhonda: L.A.'s premier “poly-sexual” traveling dance party. More info here.
Tendencies: Usually at the Standard Downtown or WeHo. DJ Kim Anh and guests tempt on the decks. More info here.
Lez Croix: Guest DJs, good times, more flavor than the soda. More info here.
Girlbar: Robin Gans' long-running lesbian love fest. Different locations. More info here.
Editor's note: Leaders from L.A. Pride helped curate content showcasing the local LGBT community for the June 8-14 issue of L.A. Weekly.