The Stonewall Inn
Narrowing down the best LGBTQ+ bars for Pride in a city the size of New York is tough. Where does the value lie: In the drink prices, the atmosphere, the eye candy, or the entertainment?
The combined buying power of the U.S. LGBTQ+ community is nearly $1 trillion a year, according to a study by Witeck Communications, a public relations firm.
Conducting my research on the best gay bars in NYC led me on a massive bar crawl — for professional purposes, of course. Of the 15 bars I patronized, I whittled my list to 10. (The other five were either redundant, less fabulous, or both.) I’ll readily admit, I didn’t drink at every bar so I could remember enough to write down (the things I do for love — I mean, work).
Now I realize the lowest price is not the only indicator of value. Here’s my list of diverse bars, each offering something unique and distinguishable.
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1. The Stonewall Inn
53 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village
The Birthplace of Pride
Defining Feature: Historical Significance
Let’s get the first and most obvious out of the way: Would there even be a gay bar list without the Stonewall Inn? The birthplace of Pride, the riot at Stonewall 50 years ago was the catalyst for Pride itself, and an air of historical import is contained within these walls.
The happy hour special — two for one — is solid when drinks average $8, but ultimately the value comes in the location itself. A significant progression of LGBTQ+ rights can be traced back to this spot, and to stand in the place where history was made is a profound experience.
The calendar at the Stonewall Inn is packed with parties, drag, karaoke, and bingo. If you’re thinking of spending Pride there, consider the words of my bartender when I visited: “This is where Pride began. Where else is there to go?”
2. Marie’s Crisis
59 Grove Street, Greenwich Village
Sing the Night Away
Defining Features: Best Showtunes, Cheapest Drinks
I know, I know. Marie’s Crisis is not a gay bar. But let’s face it: A lot of the LGBTQ+ community ends up here because what you’ll find at Marie’s are people passionate about show tunes. Not to mention the cheap AF drinks.
Stepping into Marie’s Crisis is a trip. The rows and rows of sparkling string lights in every color are the most eye-catching aspect. The rest is … not so majestic, though it does have a banner of rainbow flags encircling the entire room that I appreciate.
For a drink, you may have to fight your way (like I did) through the shoebox-size space that is Marie’s Crisis, between the tightly packed crowd of strangers belting out a song. It’ll be worth it, though. Your eyes will inevitably pop out of your head when the bartender asks for just $3 for that vodka cranberry. Hoo-boy.
With those prices, you don’t even need a happy hour. The space itself isn’t magical, with its low ceiling, simple bar, and a lack of decoration, but the atmosphere is infectious. And I don’t even like show tunes! Besides, around these people, who are so wonderfully inclusive despite my horrid singing, every hour spent here inevitably is happy.
37 W 20th Street, Chelsea
Defining Feature: Best Sports Bar
After Marie’s Crisis, walking into Boxers finally gives you room to breathe. Looking around, you’ll quickly realize this is not your typical gay bar.
Self-proclaimed as “America’s Gay Sports Bar,” there is a certain ruggedness to Boxers.
Donning the walls are giant pictures of various athletes and teams — none of whom I recognize. But the men in those pictures mesh surprisingly well with rainbow flags and ESPN.
Concrete columns in the industrialized space hold bright televisions displaying colorful advertisements and athletic men running around playing some kind of sport — perfect for LGBTQ+ sports lovers, and not to be found in any other bar I visited this night.
And I haven’t even gotten to the best part. Still not understanding why it’s called “Boxers”? Head to the bar to get a drink, where you’ll find the answer — gorgeous bartenders wearing nothing but (you guessed it) boxers. This is how it quickly became my favorite bar.
I won’t lie to you and claim Boxers is your cheapest option. However, with its various happy hour specials, it can absolutely be affordable, and let’s be honest here … the bartenders in their boxers make the drinks worth the extra buck, and I suppose the rarity of watching sports in a gay bar (if you’re into that kind of thing).
The specials are often two-for-one deals, but you’re really in luck if you’re a vodka lover, with $6 drinks on Stoli Monday, Smirnoff Wednesday, and Absolut Thursday from 8 p.m. to close. This makes Boxers much more affordable than most places at 2 a.m. when you’re still there trying to — not too obviously — watch the bartenders make drinks (I’m just trying to make out what his tattoo is, I swear).
In addition to its uniquity as a gay sports bar, Boxers has top-notch themed parties. And between DJs, performers, and karaoke on Mondays, the bar has a full event list to round out your Pride celebration. And did I mention the bartenders? They’re in their boxers. Yum.
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4. The Monster
80 Grove Street, Greenwich Village
Dance until you Drop
Defining Feature: Best Dance Spot
What’ll greet you as you enter the Monster? A group of men boisterously singing show tunes without a care in the world — whether or not they can sing. Judge not, and all that.
The bar is … distinguished, if not overly remarkable. The crowd is not so enamored with the show tunes as the clientele in Marie’s Crisis. Whether or not you’re sure of the place, make your way to the basement where you’ll strike gold. The dark stairwell leads to — and yeah, this is in the middle of the Village — A DANCE FLOOR! Needless to say, that took up a large portion of my night.
The Village is not known for open spaces, so finding this gem made it hard to tear myself away. When you jump off the dance floor to hydrate (or dehydrate as the case may be), two-for-one drink specials greet you for happy hour (wine, beer, well liquor, and Absolut cocktails), and at an average of $8 a drink you can stay all night without breaking the bank.
But as all good things must come to an end, I eventually had to move on. I’m still not sure if I’m more disappointed to have left the cute blond I’d been dancing with or the dance floor itself.
Aside from the hidden dance floor in the basement, the Monster also boasts a long list of events including drag performances with a stellar lineup of queens (Ariel Versace and Holly Dae to name a few), go-go dancers, and its weekly Green Lips party, which is a dance party hosted by Octavia Anyae, a well-known NYC drag performer!
When asked why I should spend Pride at the Monster, the manager tells me: “We’re weird, we don’t judge … and we have the only dance floor in the Village.”
Well played, Mr. Manager. Well played.
5. 3 Dollar Bill
260 Meserole Street, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Defining Feature: Best Venue
This place certainly is queer as a three dollar bill. Walking in for the first time is unreal, really. Even knowing it is the largest LGBTQ+ bar in Brooklyn, you won’t be prepared for what you see. The space is enormous. The soft lighting and underlit bar are relaxing, but you can feel the bass bumping in the next room and anticipation building. Foreplay, anyone?
There’s no disappointment to be found when four go-go dancers take to the stage gyrating their hips, their pecs and abs flexing with the beat. The bar is next to a performance and dance area, but there’s also a connected outdoor area, and even an entire kitchen to make you Mexican food. They wouldn’t let me in that area, but I’m sure it’s massive, as well.
There is electricity in the air as people flock to the dance floor or jump off to grab another drink with a friend — or maybe someone they’ve just met.
I once went for a performance by Alyssa Edwards and Shangela (#JusticeForShangela) of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, and was blown away — primarily by the beautiful dancing men and the hilarious and fabulous queens, but quickly followed by the venue's sound system. It is so impressive, 3 Dollar Bill has the tech specs on its website.
Personally, I find this to be the most impressive LGBTQ+ performance space. Full stop.
With the space, the bar hosts a huge range of events including drag bingo, DJs, film festivals, and even fiesta brunch. However, 3 Dollar Bill’s most notable event this month is the Song Squad Benefit. It’s an opportunity for you (and some friends) to sing in an informal choir with a conductor and backup band. The benefit costs only $15, and all proceeds go to the Brooklyn Community Pride Center.
And if you aren’t going to go for charity, at least go for the happy hour specials: $2 Miller High Life, $4 well drinks, and $5 wine. Everyone can find something they love here, whether it be wide open spaces, cheap drinks, great sound, or a tasty burrito. Don’t miss out.
63 Montrose Avenue, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Defining Features: Best Dive, Best Vibes
Rosemont is one of my staple bars — and with a happy hour that includes $5 well drinks, draft beer, and wine, it’s easy to see why. It was my first stop, so I didn’t embarrass myself by drunkenly roaming around the bar’s beautiful patio looking for someone to bum a smoke from … this time, anyway.
Between the laid-back vibes, jazz music, and performances, Rosemont is a solid place to park yourself for a night. When I was but a wee Gayby (newly on the gay scene) and still relatively new to Brooklyn, I didn’t have any LGBTQ+ friends. Thankfully I found the Rosemont, where I was welcomed with open arms.
If you’re looking to meet new people in real life, get off Grindr and get to the Rosemont. My first time there, I befriended two drag queens after their performance and drunkenly helped them count their money. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
8 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village
Keep the Party Going
Defining Feature: Liquid Brunch
I would have a picture of a cute bartender with the company sign, but he is “choosy” about who he allows to take his picture and apparently I did not make the cut. Life goes on.
Pieces, however, made the cut for me (maybe not that bartender though). When you walk in, there’s an explosion of color — paper lanterns covering the ceiling and a multitude of screens with the rainbow “Pieces” sign over the bar.
There isn’t a lot of space, but the room opens up to a small performance area in the back where there’s a queen beginning her performance — one of many performances during the bar’s Pride-packed event list.
Vitality courses through the entire place, which is no surprise with its flashy look and dancing lights. Plus, the happy hour special is fantastic, especially considering the location. Only $5 for beer, wine, and well drinks. But the thing that really gets me about Pieces is its Liquid Brunch — $5 margaritas, mimosas, and Bloody Marys, and only $7 for a Long Island Iced Tea. If you fall out the door, don’t blame me. You had fair warning.
559 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Free Food, Cheap Beer
Defining Feature: BBQ Brunch
Metropolitan is an easy choice. It’s my favorite dance spot in Williamsburg, but that may be because it’s the first gay bar I discovered near me.
With $3 beer, $4 wine, and well drinks until 8 p.m. daily, this place is a top contender for drink value.
I’ve seen drag performances, dance parties, Queeraoke (every Tuesday), and trivia (every Wednesday) at this venue. I also once watched stand-up here.
But this time, I decided to attend Metropolitan’s Sunday BBQ, and it did not disappoint, with a free plate of food and a place to sit and enjoy the sunny outdoors. Another treat: $3 Bud Lights and $12 Bud Light pitchers. You can grab one of the venue’s $8 frozen cocktails while you enjoy your (free) food, rotating DJs, and backyard entertainment.
Pro Tip: If you’re going on Saturday, get there before 10 p.m. to get in free. Otherwise, there’s a $5 to $10 cover.
9. House of Yes
2 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn
I Hope He’s Wearing a Harness
Defining Feature: Best Performances
Okay, okay, House of Yes was not a part of my bar crawl, and yes, it’s technically not a gay bar. But despite these truths, it still makes the list. Why? House of Yes is home to parties and performances that push boundaries.
You’ll never forget the shock of watching aerial performers drop from above for the first time, dancing in the air in seemingly invisible harnesses the entire way down. The athleticism and concision of these dancers, whether they be on oversize rings or lengths of silk, is incredible. They sparkle high above in brightly colored materials as they contort their bodies draped in bejeweled or feathered costumes with you beneath, watching in awe.
While it cannot boast of the sheer size of 3 Dollar Bill, or even a true outdoor space, there is a bar opposite the dance floor in a room with no roof, allowing for you to catch a breath or grab a smoke.
The building is still huge, and while the decor is interesting, the real attention-grabber is the other attendees. Each party is themed, and costumes are sometimes required, with example looks included on a Pinterest-like board on the bar’s website. I highly recommend dressing in costume, whether or not it’s required.
The parties come alive, not only because of the breathtaking stage and aerial performances, but also because of the creativity of the partygoers, each injecting the scene with their unique take on the theme.
House of Yes consistently nails each themed night, and for Pride, the spot is going all out.
The Glitterbox event has already sold out, but there are various Pride events all month, from Dirty Circus to drag competitions to a Pride March Afterparty.
Tickets are still on sale, in some cases for as little as $10. And while the drinks are on the more expensive end of this list at $6 to $10, they are more than worth the cost to experience this surreal venue.
281 W 12thStreet, Greenwich Village
No Boys Allowed (Mostly)
Defining Feature: Best Lady Bar
Cubbyhole is just that — a cubbyhole. From the outside it is utterly nondescript, with a small banner containing the name of the bar in rainbow colors. The space is compact and decidedly divey, but the ceiling is an absolute party. It’s covered in seemingly random decorations: paper lanterns, fish, little guitars, ornaments, parasols, fuzzy dice, kites, and a million other things.
While the inside is quirky and fun, it isn’t why Cubbyhole makes my “best gay bars in NYC” list. In every other bar that I go to, there’s a lack of one thing (for the most part): women. Cubbyhole does not have this problem.
For once, I felt like a minority when I walked in. (Yes, I can feel the privilege dripping from my mouth.) It made me appreciate it all the more for catering to a group that is not as represented in many of the bars I attend tonight. The ladies are friendly and encourage singing along with the jukebox, which I was all too happy to comply with.
The appeal to women aside, the beverages are well priced, with drinks half off before 7 p.m. every day except Sunday; $3 margarita Tuesdays; and $4 cocktails and $3 beers on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Plus, on Sunday Cubbyhole has $4 Bloody Marys and mimosas, $3 beers, and $5 Kir Royales. If you’re looking for a lively time and aren’t too claustrophobic, you’ve found your spot.
The Bottom (LOL) Line on the Best Gay Bars in NYC
I usually go to the same bars week after week because until recently, I had no idea the variety of gay bars at my fingertips. Whether you want to watch performances — or bartenders — connect with people, sing, dance, or just play pool, there is a place for you.
So for Pride this year, decide on a couple of places, maybe a handful, maybe more. (Though in good conscience, I really can’t recommend 15.) I haven’t decided where my Pride weekend will begin. Maybe in Stonewall where it all began, dancing in the Monster, singing in Marie’s Crisis, or watching a queen perform in Metropolitan. It’s all waiting for us.