If you need a break from WeHo and Palm Springs is too far, not to worry, because just 25 miles south of LA lies the port city of Long Beach, a long-standing bastion of LGBTQ culture. Since the 1950s, gay bars like The Patch and Oceania (which reopened in 1972 as the now-closed Club Ripples) offered safety and community during a time when anti-LGBTQ police raids were still common. There’s also long-running and former lesbian bar Que Sera, where Melissa Etheridge took the stage in the 1980s. Today, the city has blossomed into a destination that celebrates all members of the community. The current mayor, Robert Garcia, is an out and proud gay man and also the first Latino to hold office in Long Beach.
The heart of Long Beach’s gayborhood is along Broadway, stretching from Cherry to Alamitos Avenues, but we encourage you to spread your wings and venture into the city’s other neighborhoods such as Downtown, Belmont Shore, and Retro Row, which is home to Long Beach’s LGBTQ Community Center. The city’s dedication to diversity is evident at Harvey Milk Promenade Park and Equality Plaza, the first park in the country to be named after the gay civil rights leader. And, of course, you can’t miss the rainbow crosswalks that run along Broadway in Alamitos Beach.
The first Long Beach Pride took place in 1984, and it’s now the third largest Pride festival and parade in California. After a two-year hiatus, the city’s 2022 Pride celebration is scheduled for July 8 through 10 along Shoreline Drive in the downtown area. So whether you’re looking for a spot to hang out during Pride weekend or just a new place to check out any other time of year, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best LGBTQ bars and dance clubs to help you celebrate in style.
Although this spot welcomes everyone, Sweetwater has the most lesbian-centric clientele of all of the bars on Broadway. That could be partly due to Long Beach’s favorite bartender, Melissa Almeraz, who also co-owns Let’s Yolk About It, a popular brunch spot in Belmont Shore. Step through the saloon doors and sidle up to the wraparound bar, play a game of pool, or select a song from the jukebox. Enjoy daily happy hour specials until 8 pm, but be sure to bring a wad of bills as Sweetwater is cash only.
A friendly neighborhood bar in the heart of Alamitos Beach, The Falcon recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. It may be tiny inside, but there’s plenty of room to cozy up to new friends. While the charming bartenders serve up a heavy pour every day of the week, the Sunday beer busts are legendary with beer specials and a happy hour that lasts until 7 pm. Patrons of all ages and genders pack the makeshift dance floor on weekends, so if you’re in a more mellow mood, plan to arrive early and sit at the bar where you can sing along to video classics.
With multiple locations across the country, Hamburger Mary’s has become known for its drag shows that sparkle with sarcasm and sass. Performances are offered almost every day of the week, ranging from karaoke to weekly viewing parties for RuPaul’s Drag Race, Tear up the dance floor on the weekend, and admire go-go dancers in all of their hunky glory. If you sit near the front during a drag show, prepare to be heckled. It’s all part of the fun!
The newest kid on the block, Beach Garden Social House is the only bar and restaurant in the neighborhood that is owned and operated by a member of the LGBTQ community. Owner Ben Gutierrez partnered with chef Andy Figueroa to create a concept that pairs New Latin American cuisine and a social calendar filled with events like a Trivia Night on Wednesdays and RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties on Fridays. Don’t miss their Taco Tuesday specials, with $3 tacos and $8 margaritas from 4 to 10 pm. Beach Garden also recently started an Open Mic night on Thursdays at 6 pm, so bring your own guitars and gear.
4th Street Corridor
In business since 1981, The Silver Fox has the distinction of being Southern California’s first video bar. With an Art Deco facade and a recent renovation on the interior with enhanced visual projections, this is a lively spot for party goers who are into karaoke and a mix of music. On Friday and Saturday nights, you can groove alongside go-go dancers. Post up on the spacious outdoor patio or hang out inside, but be sure to enjoy one of their strong cocktails. Just like its namesake, this place gets better with age.
The first stop on the semi-regular Pride Bar Crawl, The Broadway Bar is another staple along Long Beach’s queer corridor that is often filled with locals. Visit on the weekends between 3 and 7 pm, and you can order well drinks for $2.50. Karaoke is also a big hit here, as the bar was voted the #1 best karaoke bar in Long Beach. The drinks are also cheap and well-crafted, and the bartenders are laidback—the perfect combination. This place is cash-only, so be sure to hit up an ATM ahead of time.
Family-owned and operated since 1974, Mineshaft is a neighborhood bar that aims to “provide a space where anyone can be seen, be themselves, and move to the groove of the beat.” This is apparent the moment you walk through the door, with the bar’s welcoming vibe and lack of pretentiousness. Of course, the cheap cocktails and friendly bartenders also help. Mineshaft is active with many local organizations and supports several causes that affect the LGBTQ community.
Located in the old Eagle 562 space, Falcon North is a sibling establishment to The Falcon. With a large indoor space and pool table area, it is also well-known for its beer busts on Sunday Fundays. The nightclub will also host two DILF parties this summer on June 18 and July 8, which aim to connect older and younger men. Falcon North claims to have Southern California’s largest outdoor patio and dance floor, and it is frequented by all-star DJs and entertainers.
The largest LGBTQ nightclub in Long Beach, Executive Suite sprawls over three levels. Every Wednesday is Transtastic, the place for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals to feel safe and be seen. Drag shows and dancing dominate on other nights of the week, with Lipstick Diva Drag Shows hosted by Morgan McMichaels on Thursday nights. Saturdays are designated as Ladies Night, with a Sugar Saturday dance party on the upper level.
North Long Beach
The Crest is a watering hole in north Long Beach that prides itself on being all-inclusive. The Sunday beer busts start at noon and go all day long until 2 am, where you can take advantage of $8 domestic draft pitchers and $15 import draft pitchers. Come for the beer, and stay for the libations by the well-equipped bartenders. And be sure to make friends with the regulars, who have quite a few stories to tell about Long Beach and its Pride-tinged history.
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