For a young scene in a mid-sized city, gay Las Vegas boasts some serious sprawl. Like the housing developments and strip malls that cover the Vegas map like glitter on a go-go boy, the local gay and lesbian community is impressively spread throughout the valley, all but screaming: we’re here, we’re queer, we’re everywhere.
Which, of course, only fuels complaints about disconnection and a lack of a true gayborhood. The former is symptomatic of the city’s transitory population and its LGBT scene’s relative youth; the Las Vegas Pride parade, for instance, is barely two decades old. And the latter reflects the clustered nature of gay bars in Las Vegas.
The UNLV-adjacent “Fruit Loop,” the original gay hub, still draws boys to Piranha, the least pretentious of the gay clubs in Las Vegas, and girls to FreeZone, the city’s honorary lesbian club. Over in revitalized downtown—home to the new $4-million Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada—the only out-and-proud drinkery is the 38-year-old Snick’s Place, though lively East Fremont piano bar Don’t Tell Mama and hip Arts District urban lounge Artifice are unofficial homo hangs.
South of downtown, the aging Commercial Center represents the gay alternative, hosting everything from poker bars (Badlands Saloon and Spotlight Lounge) to a trans-friendly dive (Las Vegas Lounge) to cruising facilities (Entourage Spa and Hawk’s Gym) to a boys’ clothing/accessory store (The Rack) with an attached performance space attached (Onyx Theatre) and ample LGBT programming. Sadly, lesbian bars in Las Vegas don’t open here—or anywhere.
The pink elephant in the room is the Strip, its gaiety limited but evolving by the season. Krave, former king of the gay clubs in Las Vegas, is now back mid-Strip at the Tommy Wind Theatre after a failed attempt at a downtown expansion. Local-friendly promos run up and down the busiest portion of the Boulevard at spots such as Bond inside the Cosmopolitan, Revolution Lounge at Mirage, the Tropicana Beach Club and Luxor’s Oasis Pool.
A few blocks west, the isolated Share Nightclub has lapdances on offer for those in more prurient pursuit, though the bottoms, as it were, stay on the dancers. Gay Las Vegas has come a long way, but it still isn’t Sin City.