10 Favorite Gay Bars in Greater Phoenix
Ludovic Bertron/Wikimedia Commons
Here's a little factoid that's perfect for your mental Rolodex: The Valley's oldest gay bar still in operation is the venerable Nu-Towne Saloon , which has been alive and kicking over by the Tovrea Castle since 1971. A few years later in 1974, the equally esteemed Apollo's Lounge opened up along Seventh Street right around the time that Tricky Dick was in some seriously hot water.
While both Apollo's and Nu-Towne (which recently reopened after nearly being destroyed by a major fire in 2010) are still in existence, the local gay bar scene is a much busier place. More than two-dozen bars and nightclubs dot the Valley, each aimed at a different slice of the LGBT community and each offering their own mix of potent pours, cheap drinks, and cheap thrills. Here's a rundown of some of our favorite spots.
10. Ice Pics
Boasting more hi-def televisions than most other gay establishment, this McDowell Road hangout and video bar fills its patrons' eyeballs with a non-stop stream of music videos, showtune selections, episodes of Glee, and LGBT-specific programming.
Those bored with the boob tube can scope out a virtual boy buffet as male strippers and hot-bodied performers take to the stage five nights a week. It'll definitely fulfill your recommended daily allowance of beefcake.
Gonzo fun is the name of the game at the Valley's only swishy sports spot, which is far more laidback than many other local jock joint (or gay bar, for that matter). The staff is quite zany, for instance, and typically sport referee jerseys. They've also got whistles and ain't afraid to use them on patrons who perpetrate party fouls or get unnecessarily unruly when their team doesn't win.
Heck, barkeeps might even confiscate your keys if you've partaken in too many of Roscoe's plentiful drink specials, such as two-for-one cocktails every Tuesday through Thursday.
Wild times are on tap at this festive CenPho gay danceteria, where patrons can be found raising the roof nearly every night of the week. Where other LGBT establishments around the Valley proudly fly the rainbow flag, Karamba lights it up with neon and adds sparkle and swagger into its after-hours mix.
Open until 4 a.m. on the weekends and primarily focusing on Latin dance jams like salsa, merengue, cumbia, reggaeton and pop en Español, Karamba DJs also feature Top 40 hits, hip-hop anthems, or anything else with sexy basslines that will keep the action going all night.
7. Cash Inn Country
Sapphic sirens of every stripe have crammed themselves inside this CenPho saloon and Lesbian-friendly honkytonk practically every Friday and Saturday night for decades while wasting away they weekend hours inside its wood-paneled walls. Cowgirls mix and mingle with spiky-haired "bois" in shorts outside on the smoking patio or on the checkered dance floor during line-dancing lessons country songs (as well as the occasional hip-hop anthem) blare from the DJ booth.
The ultra-attentive drink-slingers are constantly poppin' open cans of beer and ensuring that everyone's glasses stay filled until the last roundup rolls around at 2 a.m. The rest of the week filled with action as well, including Texas Hold'em on Wednesdays and the "Sunday Funday" karaoke session where, just like Electric Six promised, everyone can be "a superstar at the gay bar."
6. BS West
There's no telling what sort of colorful characters you'll encounter on any given night at this hidden hot spot tucked behind Scottsdale's Craftsman Court. The only certainty is that both floors of BS West will be packed with bodies -- some gay, some straight, and the rest falling somewhere in between.
The overwhelming appeal of this video bar and dance club lies in its decadent atmosphere and an unbeatable combo of live entertainment (drag shows, hot-bodied go-go boys), music selection (ranging from club hits to industrial), and drink deals (two-for-one specials run almost every night). And that's no B.S.
Although longtime proprietor Rhonda Walden has changed up the identity of her cozy bar every few years, it's endured as one of the epicenters of the Seventh Avenue gay district for more than a 15 years.
Its latest transformation is its best yet, as dropping its girl-centric focus has resulted in a more varied cross-section of clientele turning out on weekend nights for DJs spinning Top 40 tracks and R&B hits or to catch up on the hottest of gossip. Its largely lesbian clientele still visit in droves, especially to check out the former lounge area, which became a ginormous open-air smoking area, complete with pool tables and cushy couches.
Refereed to by regulars as the "lil bitty ol' pissant country place," Charlie's has been the go-to spot for tight-Wranglered gay folk and Marlboro Mary's aplenty with country tunes. In recent years, however, its DJs have switched things up and mixed in more Latin-oriented jams, resulting in an even bigger throng occupying its dance floor while two-steppin' or shaking their asses to high-energy dance hits.
While the music may have changed, many things have stayed the same at Charlie's, like drag contests throughout the week, the always-muscular bartending staff, and after-hours dancing until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
3. The Rock
Myriad males frequently wander into the neon glow of this convivial dive owned by Michael Jacobs and Doug Pesavento for a few reasons: Cheap hooch, cheeky barkeeps, and largest lineup of LGBT-oriented entertainment in Valley.
Spectacular and surreal showcases are presented nightly and include female illusionists like Sherry Vine and Barbara Seville, transgendered rock bands, and male stripper revues. Resident drag artists such as Lady Christian and Tabitha Lovall also sling drinks occasionally, dispensing naughty-sounding signature cocktails ("Tabitha's Titties") and just as much snark behind the bar as onstage.
The grand dame of Phoenix's gay scene, Amsterdam's tony atmosphere is the stuff of legend. Freestanding Roman columns and bronze busts of muscular men dot its ultra- classy lounge area where leather furnishings and darkened wooden décor dominate. Such a chic setting deserves an equally chic repast, which is why its mixologists are skilled at crafting any of the 300-odd designer martinis available on the menu. And they've learned to do it quickly, as most nights its standing room only.
Amsterdam's gotten even more popular since the recent debut of its new Club Miami discotheque adjacent to the lounge, which has resulted in even longer lines to snag some spirits. You might wanna consider bringing a flask.
Bathed in rich hues of teal and blue, Bryon Wiley and Robert Mancuso's upscale lounge cloistered in the middle of Park Central Mall features ritzy décor, an uptown location, and top-shelf cocktails, but nary any attitude to be seen. It offers up plush leatherette couches, a long granite bar and a chill, inviting vibe for anyone and everyone, regardless of their social standing or sexual orientation.
The colorful bartenders are generous with their attention and - more importantly - the booze, as Kobalt has one of the strongest pours of any bar in the Valley - gay or straight. Here's hoping you've got a designated driver, yo.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the Phoenix art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.