Whether you’re the part of the targeted demographic, the girl best friend, or the self-assured straight guy just tagging along, gay bars are attracting all kinds of crowds of late, a testament to their staple in the New York City nightlife scene.
But just because a bar boasts fog machines, a happy hour and drag queens doesn’t mean it should be a pit stop when you’re painting the town rainbow.
Here’s a list of NYC gay bars you might want to sashay away from.
1. Posh (405 West 51st Street)
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This Hell’s Kitchen hole-in-the-wall gives new meaning to the term “well-worn.” The cheap drinks are one of the only things to be gained by venturing inside, quickly offset by how claustrophobic it is whether there’s a crowd or not.
It does boast a “dance floor” of sorts, though it's barely bigger than an over-sized van, not to mention the bottlenecking it causes when you try to navigate to the back.
The conveniently located bathroom door whips open right alongside it, both knocking dancers out of its path and washing nearby revelers in whatever aromas were just released.
Although it is the neighborhood’s pioneer gay bar, you’d think it could get a little more TLC. You don’t see Stonewall falling all over itself.
2. Atlas Social Club (753 9th Avenue)
What is made out to be a vintage, muscle-culture stripper den on the outside, turns out to be merely a dark, bland and disappointing drinking hole on the inside.
From a chain of party night flops to multiple stories of patrons being overcharged to reach a $20 credit card minimum (even when they charge the same price for a Coke as they do a beer) it begs the question, “Why are we here?”
Their attempt to answer that is in their line-up of male strippers that perform through the night. What they don’t tell you is that they’re all in a seedy back room that you have to pay another $20 to get into, and that’s before you buy yourself a lap dance.
3. Boxers Sports Bar HK (742 Ninth Avenue)
rodrigoribeiro93 Hahaha as gays estão lokaaaas hahahah
It’s a common thought that the sequel is never as good as the original. This doesn’t ring any truer in NYC gay nightlife than at Boxers in Hell’s Kitchen.
Made to compliment its wildly successful and well-executed Chelsea location, this Boxers just doesn’t have the same bite. Hanging on via the magnetism of their better-looking older brother, this corner bar’s frosted glass entryway is the most eye-catching thing about it.
Their rooftop terrace, seemingly their pride and joy, is a much smaller space than one would might hope for and the often-long line to be let up there due to their capacity limit isn’t worth it, especially if you can’t move around to see the views. At least they still kept their big brother’s happy hour.
4. Easternbloc (505 East 6th Street)
What this darkened dive bar lacks in class, it makes up for in décor with interesting and cool art adorning the walls.
At first, you’re fine with making this one of the evening’s watering hole selections. Then you see the tiny and empty dance floor.
Next, a strange smell of musty sweat creeps into your nose. You order a thankfully inexpensive drink to keep your feet planted there.
Your eyes trace the kitschy décor in an attempt to entertain yourself along with the awkwardly places corner DJ that has been rumored to not be great at taking requests. It’s time to down the rest of your bottom shelf vodka and skedaddle.
5. Industry (355 West 52nd Street)
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Industry is one of those gay bars that you really want to like, but there are things to note that are just unavoidable. Aside from the impressive drag revues and unique drinking “rooms” with plush couches, the venue’s layout can be described best as annoying.
For the sheer amount of space the bar has, it does a poor job in utilizing it. Random towering walls partition off slender sections of seating and the stage area looks out onto a half empty space, blocking patrons’ view of the show from almost anywhere in the space unless you’re right up front.
Although they need a bit of a remodel, this bar is savable, so long as they get a minimalist interior designer, post haste.,
6. The Cock (29 2nd Avenue)
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Sometimes a down dirty dive can be fun on a lonely night, but there’s a limit to everything. Upon passing under its namesake rooster over the entrance, the bouncer advises you to keep your phone and wallet in your front pocket for safekeeping.
Upon walking into the main bar room, you notice a go-go boy or two on the bar as scattered onlookers sip a well cocktail. Your eyes begin to adjust and then you see it: a dark space around the bar that is a tangle of limbs, clothes and flesh.
As exciting as this might be to some, don’t try to get close unless you’re ready to be blindly pulled in, and by multiple sets of hands at that. If you can stomach the scent of The Corner, as it’s called, it’s a surefire way to score a two-minute after-dark anonymous adult encounter.
Just don’t ever go into the bathroom.
7. Barrage (401 West 47th Street)
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Caught between a dive bar and an old school lounge, Barrage is another one that isn’t meeting its potential.
Although the myriad of titillating framed pictures that cover the walls are fun, especially the ones in the bathrooms, what Barrage has in style it lacks in substance with lackluster lighting and dull wooden décor.
The massive column in the center of the space impales any breathing room by the bar, especially if you don’t get a seat. Although the crowd does pick up after 11, it’s often the starter or finisher of the night, because you’re either over it soon after you walk in, or ready to call the night quits right there.
8. Evolve (221 East 58th Street)
It’s commonly known that bars in NYC don’t often charge a cover, and when there is one it’s because they’re doing something worth being part of inside. This is not the case at Evolve.
After paying a $20 cover charge, you’re ready for something exciting. What you find are average parties, less than enthusiastic go-go’s and, to add insult to injury, overpriced drinks. Their $5 well drink happy hour is nothing to jump at, especially since you’re already paying to get in.
A lack of theme in the décor is occasionally masked by a funny drag show, but you can go to almost any other NYC gay bar and use the $20 you would have spent on the cover on two drinks and a decent tip for the queen.
9. Escuelita (301 West 39th Street)
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It may have technically dodged the low 40’s, but going to Escuelita is still going out in Times Square, often seen as a death wish for the nightlife-savvy New Yorker. Yet another venue guilty of a $20 tourist trap cover, it aims to catch the rap, hip-hop and reggae crowds, but does nothing to keep them.
Watery overpriced drinks and a dingy, dungeon-like dance floor try to cover up the fact that it’s a glorified basement with nothing much to offer aside from ear-shattering music and the musty air of a boisterous crowd.
When you’re ready to leave, you come out and breathe in the outside air to only realize something worse: you’re still stuck in Times Square.
10. RockBar (185 Christopher Street)
houseofdandridge Summer Sunday Lovin' @RockBarNY With guest VJ Chauncey D! (that's me!) Come by for some beer, booze and/or weiners! #stchristopherstreet #homosensible #beerblast #westvillage #greenwichvillage #sundaysermon
Once the high energy hotspot Dugout, then briefly the leather-clad den Ramrod, this corner West Village haunt can’t seem to catch a break. Besides being secluded on a distant dim corner, almost spilling onto the West Side Highway, the place is just, well, overrated.
Whether it’s simply cleaning the taps, or just taking a rag and some Lysol to every surface, the staleness is overwhelming enough that you should expect any small measure of cleanliness to make an incredible difference.
The weekends draw a respectable crowd, but other than that, the place is usually as dead as Ben & Jerry's on Christmas Day.
New Yorkers have hundreds of options when it comes to going out in the city and new spots pop up all the time. Be loyal to your favorites, try out some new ones and stay the hell away from Times Square.
[Feature Image Courtesy of Hell's Kitsch]