Gay bar and club favorites in L.A.
Akbar’s retro-style lounge has become Silver Lake’s ultimate gay alternative hipster hangout. As such, the crowd tends to be toward the younger side, drawing from L.A.’s burgeoning pockets of cool like Echo Park, Downtown and Elysian Fields. Drink and dance in the front room, or head to the back for comedy, queer history nights, open mics, benefit parties and more.
The Abbey is annually voted one of the world’s best gay bars, which explains the long lines on the weekends to get into this once-humble coffee house—which now boasts four full bars and five times the amount of real estate it originally occupied. The drinks at this West Hollywood stalwart are notoriously strong (albeit pricey) and the upscale, Gothic-meets-the-Mediterranean indoor/outdoor spaces, plentiful cabanas and hunky bartenders are all aesthetically satisfying. If there’s a downside to the Abbey it's actually the bar's success: Not so very long ago, it was the nucleus of gay life in West Hollywood, but as its popularity has grown, increasingly the crowd—particularly at night—seems to be made up of tourists. To its credit though, the Abbey banned bachelorette parties in early 2012, which helped to shore up its gay street cred among some of the faithful who felt it had overextended itself in its efforts to be hetero-friendly.
Boulevard Bar may not be your average gay nightlife destination. A little off the beaten path and far outside WeHo’s party-heavy orbit, this longstanding Pasadena hole in the wall is favored by locals young and old, from hipsters to silver foxes. The Boulevard offers karaoke, a pool table, drag shows and a bar patron’s holy grail: a heavy pour for a cheap price. This Northeast L.A. spot may not be the wildest of bars, but it’s perfect for an evening of entertainment where you can make new friends and hang out with old ones. The bartenders and patrons at the Boulevard are friendly and down to earth, and are unafraid to belt it out at karaoke.
If you prefer beer to cocktails and like your strippers hairy and in harnesses—or some form of leather—then the Eagle might top your list of favorite bars in L.A. Formerly known as the Gauntlet II, the Eagle has become the haunt of choice for a cross-section of L.A. leather daddies, bears and sexy alternative Silver Lake types, all of whom play well together in this dark, sweaty, no-frills space that really packs in a crowd on the weekend. Popular monthly events include monthly Cruise Nights, and the biweekly Meat Rack on the second and Saturdays of the month (check the calendar for exact dates of these and other events).
When Los Angeles seemed ready to give up on leather as one leather bar after another closed, Faultline kept its doors open and embraced the growing bear community. Today, the rawness of the crowd at Faultline couldn’t be more different from the trendily coiffed West Hollywood contingent. Ripe with the smell of pheromones and dried sweat rather than the latest Gucci scent, Faultline prides itself in carrying on the tradition of the "men's bar." So if bellies, beards and tattoos make the man for you, then program your GPS for Faultline. If not, steer clear because this is not a place for lookey-loos… that is, of course, unless you enjoy playing with the bears from time to time.
The fun to be had at Fiesta Cantina is far from secret. In fact, this festive bar and Mexican restaurant is often packed to the gills with patrons taking advantage of one of WeHo’s best happy hour deals: two-for-one drinks from 4 to 8pm, and again during late-night. Fiesta Cantina offers a main floor and a rooftop deck for mingling, intermittent dancing, solid Mexican-food options and walking bartenders that offer shot specials. Just a stone’s throw from the Abbey and never dull, Fiesta Cantina is a popular spot for a reason—strong drinks for cheap, a lively crowd and an upbeat vibe from noon ‘til close.
As the WeHo gay bar residing furthest east on Santa Monica Boulevard, Fubar is the most alternative of the Boystown clan of bars and clubs. Ripped, tattooed and pierced bartenders pour strong drinks in this steamy dark bar that oozes sex seven days a week. Hooking up is always in the air at Fubar thanks to its underground vibe, so don't be confused—this is not the bar you go to for a casual drink, this is the bar you go to when looking for casual sex. The most popular night is the Mario Diaz–hosted B.F.D. (Big Fat Dick), which features a contest where patrons agree to have their private parts photographed and be voted on by the crowd at the end of the night (the winning title is obvious).
Micky’s is a West Hollywood institution. A few years ago it literally burned down, but it came back bigger, better and gayer than ever, as if it had never missed a beat. The cavernous club has two notable distinctions: tts various stages, boxes and showers are always filled with an abundance of scantily clad boys in every imaginable shape, size and proportion, and it's the only place on the entire boulevard with a regular after-hours that goes until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. Like other local hot spots that've stood the test of time, Micky’s also has a loyal local fan base, which makes it a premiere spot to get better acquainted with the boys of WeHo.
Mother Lode is another one of those West Hollywood staples that has withstood the test of time. In fact, this laid-back bar built around a pool table and stash of video games has been around so long that it has come full circle: from “it” spot to out of favor, to “it” spot again—and got a semi-recent facelift, to keep things fresh. Thanks in no small measure to the fact that it counterbalances its more stylized neighbors with a low-key dive bar atmosphere, Mother Lode is experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment. Elsewhere in Boystown, attitude and preening may best define the current posture of patrons, but not at Mother Lode—here, the vibe, from the bartenders to the crowd, is casual and the only attitude allowed is "friendly."
A dive in the truest sense of the word, this stripped-down DTLA bar boasts the cheapest of drinks, a raucous dance floor, regular drag shows and plenty of Latinx flavor. The ever-evolving Downtown scene may have no shortage of buzzy new restaurants and upscale coffee shops, but when it comes to gay bars, the New Jalisco is one of the few and the proud. With a largely local clientele, cash-only drinks and music ranging from pop to cumbia and reggaeton, the New Jalisco is a DTLA institution that guarantees an uninhibited good time, no matter who you are or what neighborhood you hail from.
Oil Can Harry’s is one of the few destinations that even West Hollywood diehards will, on occasion, intentionally venture over the hill and into the Valley to experience. Oil Can’s is like another world, one that hasn’t changed much since the late ’80s or maybe the early ’90s, judging from the décor. Most of the week the bar is filled with guys in cowboy hats enjoying some pretty serious line dancing, but on Saturdays Harry’s comes alive with Retro Disco Night, where the vibe is pure ’70s and the energy is high. There's also some pretty stellar regular karaoke in the loft upstairs. A welcome diversion from a night of standing and posing in WeHo, Saturdays at Oil Can Harry’s recall a time when going out was more about community and interpersonal communication. More importantly, it’s just freewheeling fun.
This space for leather, lipstick and bears jettisons WeHo for Downtown, just down the block from the Ace Hotel. The self-dubbed “rock and roll gay bar” serves as a cool update for a turn-of-the-century building that once housed the Department of Corrections by going classic in décor: exposed brick, lots of black, and a red arrow above the door to mark the spot. The expansive 8,500-square-foot second-floor space includes a bar, dance floor, performance space and its best feature, a wrap-around terrace with commanding views and feels more Bourbon Street than DTLA—and serves as the perfect place for a Sunday beer bust.
Revolver is a video bar reborn. Several years ago it went out of business and the space became an upscale gay lounge. But when the lounge folded in 2011, Revolver came roaring back with a new look, better cocktails and, in a nod to the times, strippers on the tabletops. The result has been a resounding hit with the West Hollywood crowd, who now pack the relatively small bar to overflowing and often wait in line to get in at peak times. A happy medium between neighborhood bar and megaclub, Revolver strikes just the right note with a simple winning formula that combines good music, familiar videos and an inviting atmosphere.
The Roosterfish deserves a shout-out if only because it’s one of the far Westside’s only gay bars. Not only that, but this fun little hole in the wall, just a stone’s throw from the ocean, has been serving the gay community for over three decades, long before Abbott Kinney—the street it calls home—was the fashionable address it is today. The staff can be notoriously rude, but still, this gem of a bar attracts a quirky bunch of artsy Venetians and Westsiders of all stripes, making it a refreshing choice for Angelenos in need of a change of scene or who just happen to be hanging at the beach. Hint: The back patio is an excellent option for whiling away a few lazy hours in the sun on the weekends.
A favorite among locals, St. Felix is as close to a neighborhood bar as it gets in West Hollywood. The wait staff are memorably friendly, the bartenders are expert mixologists and the bar’s daily happy hour (from 4 to 8pm) is one of the best bargains on the Boulevard. Always buzzing but rarely uncomfortably overcrowded, St. Felix is the perfect place to go when you actually want to have a conversation with friends over a cocktail after work. No dancers here, just good food and great drinks in a bordello-style setting that keeps all the cool kids coming back for more.