1 Queer Social Club
On our first visit to Archie’s Iowa & Rockwell Tavern (2600 W Iowa St)—a small hipster hideaway in Humboldt Park with a pool table and a chill rec-room vibe—a makeshift screen projects the late drag actor Divine engaging in debaucherous tomfoolery. As pooches run rampant, their gay dads and moms commingle (gasp!) with total ease. The Queer Social Club, a new party happening every first Wednesday of the month, is low-key and low frills, to be sure, but it’s also proof that gay life can thrive west of Western Avenue.
2 Martini Manness
Remember when gay bars were tucked-away gems where you gained access by knocking on the door and whispering archaic phrases like, “I’m a friend of Dorothy’s”? The Martini Bar (401 S LaSalle St, 312-377-6111, Martini Manness on Facebook), on a deserted stretch of the Loop, recalls that vintage vibe during its gay Saturday nights. The narrow space features black-and-white tile floors, glass shelves lined with fine liqueurs and comfy couches in back. On our recent visit to this mellow spot, bartender Michael mixed frothy libations for about 20 patrons while a DJ cranked out high-energy tunes (yes, there is a dance floor). If promoters can get word out to nearby Columbia students, Billy Elliot fanatics and bored Boystowners—and keep hottie Michael behind the bar—they may just have a modest hit on their hands.
3 Venga Bus
A tour bus decked out with Barbie dolls, feather boas and beer? Must be Venga Bus (Chicago Venga Bus on Facebook), an itinerant party on wheels and the brainchild of Doug Collins, a local who manages a tour-bus company. Venga Bus began last September when Collins decided on a lark to shuttle a group of friends to Milwaukee queer bar LaCage for a night of drink-and-drive-free revelry. The real party has been on the bus itself, where the booze flows freely, the stereo cranks garish gay pop, and the minimal costs ($10–$20) cover gas and driver fees. Collins plans to take his BYOB bus bash to Saugatuck, Indy and beyond.
4 Queerer Park
This nomadic monthly (see the Queerer Park Facebook page) has been hopping around the city since November ’09, though it’s looking for a permanent venue for its fourth-Friday bash. One such contender is Loft 3A (3036 N Lincoln Ave, 773-362-5324), a 3,000-square-foot loft adorned with hammocks, where the January event was held. Queerer Park parties bring together a ready-to-groove mix of trans folk, lesbians and gay men for a night of electronica, hip-hop, ’80s and more. But the meaning behind this madness is a charity initiative: Fifty percent of drink profits benefit Chicago Books to Women in Prison.
5 Big Gay Brunch Club
In April 2009, eight friends gathered at Broadway Cellars for scrambled eggs and hangover chat. Since then, they’ve been traveling monthly to brunch spots around the city, including Dunlays on Clark and Sabor Saveur—and the masses have followed. Big Gay Brunch Club (unrelated to Big Gay Cocktail Club) now attracts 60 to 70 people and boasts hundreds of gay men and women following it on Facebook. The appeal? Mimosas and morning-after talk, naturally, but with a fixed price (usually around $30) that includes an entrée and unlimited coffee, tea and, yes, mimosas, it’s also a bargain. On April 25 at 1:30pm, BGBC celebrates its one-year anniversary by returning to Broadway Cellars (5900 N Broadway, 773-944-1208).