Bikini bars are the strange cousin of strip clubs—though some aficionados will insist they can’t be called strip clubs at all—and in LA they host some of the best pole dancing shows in the city. They also usually don’t have a cover. Bikini bars tend to stand out as fantastic dives with fun atmospheres, creative dancers and a solid mix of customers (we'll take our hipsters with a side of dirty old men—and there will always be dirty old men). Turns out, all the best bikini bars are in Hollywood—central location, only marginally seedy, easily Uber-able. These bars are great for a fun night out with a group of friends or the occasional adventurous Tinder date, or when you're just in the mood for some sexy dance moves. Note: Not all bikini bars offer private dances, but those that do start at $20 a pop, which seems to be industry standard in LA.
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If you’re a sucker for pole tricks and tattoos then Cheetahs is your Mecca, and well worth the pilgrimage from anywhere in the city. Sporting one skinny stage, a well-stocked bar and plenty of seating, this bikini bar has become a neighborhood favorite. You’re just as likely to be sitting next a middle-aged, aspiring writer talking about how meth really helped him get over his writer’s block as you are a young hipster couple drenched in irony. The music is a great mix and always fun—hip hop and classic rock come up often, with the occasional dubstep beat or even an indie rock jam by The Strokes. Ultimately, the real stars of Cheetahs are dancers like Breezy and Malice, who completely own the stage with their powerful presence (a foot-high mohawk doesn't hurt) and skillful performances. Watching Malice on the pole is its own form of visual poetry. Sexy, sexy poetry.
Hollywood’s notorious pole dancing club, this small laid-back dive is the hipster crown jewel of bikini bars host to some truly diverse and badass pole-spinners. From ink to piercings to crazy handmade outfits, Jumbo’s dancers are all rock and roll, and also very friendly (even when the bartenders are not). Weekdays host lesser talents, but the skilled ladies who dance on Friday and Saturday nights draw a fun assortment of customers, often lining up out the door. Everyone goes to Jumbo’s: single men and women, couples, groups of friends and of course the ever present golden-agers. There’s no cover, but tipping is strongly encouraged. And, psst, if you buy a Jumbo’s hat the bouncer sometimes lets you skip the line.
Maybe your plan was just to go to Mashti Malone's, but eye-catching lights and an intriguing sign promising “Crazy Girls” made you forget all about that rosewater-saffron ice cream. Next thing you know you’re getting a lap dance from a dancer named Ryder and justifying $5 ATM fees. We’ve all been there. Crazy Girls has been infamously sketchy for years, but has shifted management in recent months and done a lot to make the whole experience much more pleasant (read: less stabby). Everyone from the security to the talent at Crazy Girls is notably friendly, and the dancers often sit down (sometimes on your lap) to chat and flirt at length before asking if you’d like a private (non-nude) dance. It’s a nice change of pace from clubs where dancers prowl the floor, tap you on the shoulder and immediately move on to your neighbor if you decline. Lap dances, though, are on the pricey side at $30 a pop and upwards—but who goes to this sort of club to save money?
Oh Gold Diggers. Every once in a while, a club with no cover charge and heavy dive bar charm is a welcome escape from the more polished and popular strip clubs. Sometimes you don’t want an acrobatic dancer or comfortable chairs, sometimes all you want is a limited beer selection and girls who dance when they feel like it. These dancers, like the crowd, are multi-ethnic and spend most of their time on stage staring at themselves in the mirror behind the bar. Is it possible you will be the only person in the bar? Yes. Is it possible WrestleMania will be playing on the TV? Double yes. Does this make you want to go any less? Nope. We chose this Hollywood haunt specifically because it stays loyal to the no-nonsense nature of a true dive bar. Sure, Cheetahs and Jumbo's are fun, but they get crowded with irony-steeped white kids (much like the author of this story) and what’s worse is those bars know they’re cool. Gold Diggers is just a laid-back (slightly dirty) place with no delusions about what it is, or isn’t. Think of it as the most honest strip club in all of Los Angeles. There’s no veil or mirage at Gold Diggers and damn do we we respect that!