Being gay in South Florida is as common as it gets. Sure, there's still prejudice, bullying, and occasional hate crimes, but where isn't there these days? On a map, South Florida is one of the most gay-friendly areas in the country, not to mention the world. Sure, it's no San Francisco (not until we legalize medical marijuana and gay marriage), but it's not exactly Pyongyang down here either.
Although we live in a cultural melting pot with a diverse, proud LGBT community, there's just one little problem: The majority of the gay bars down here are train wrecks in slow motion. Dated music (no, not "retro") and lack of age range (it's either 21-year-old power bottoms who lick the floor any pop diva walks on or your long-lost great-grandfather who keeps a large supply of kiddie porn in his basement — take your pick). All major turnoffs. But most worrisome is the lack of diversity. We don't know if it's the fear of speaking to new people or the fear of simply being yourself, but people-watching at a South Florida gay bar is straight out of Mean Girls. All cliques, all the time, and if you approach someone without an invitation, nine times out of ten, you get a "you can't sit with us" glare.
Thankfully, because of the volume of gays and gay or gay-friendly bars, there are some hidden gems among the muck and grime. These ten bars represent the best in Broward and Palm Beach counties and offer a little something for everyone.
10. Village Pub
2283 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Village Pub is the newest bar on the drive (next to the just opened Rumors, formerly Matty's), and coincidentally the most popular one too. Bars in Wilton Manors (and most bars in general) have a specific life cycle. A new bar opens, gains hype, some dedicated regulars, makes a profit, everything seems just swell. Then before you know it, a new bar opens up one block away,closing down the beloved, now "old" bar.
Village Pub is a strong contender to stay afloat on the drive, with daily drink specials, a ridiculous amount of video screens (they only use VJs), and an open layout that prevents any sense of claustrophobia, even when it's a wall-to-wall sausage fest. The music ranges from '90s classics to today's Top 20, and with dart boards, pool tables, and video poker machines, there's literally something for everyone here.
1620 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale
The specialty drinks may be a little on the pricey side, but they're made with top shelf liquor and fresh ingredients like mint and fruit. Anything muddled has us sold. The lounge is leaning towards upscale, but the drinks and food are reasonably priced considering the atmosphere you get in return.
8. Georgie's Alibi
2266 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Georgie's Alibi could be considered the bar that started the Drive. It has been a mainstay of Wilton Manors' gay scene for more years than us young'uns can count. The best night to come out on is a Thursday, where it's so packed that people spill out into the parking lot.
The venue hosts multiple shows weekly, including an exclusive performance from South Florida's own Dame Edna. If you haven't seen this bitch perform live, you're missing out. Big time. Seriously.
1508 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Ramrod is basically the "Cheers" of Wilton Manors. There's something intriguing about bear culture that draws people in, whether you're a bear or not.
Cub, bear, otter, or anything in between, it doesn't matter; the moment you walk into Ramrod, you can sense a community. In all honesty, the bar is dark, there are gargoyle statues everywhere, and they play minimal house music that's so old that it's already on trend again.
Sure you might get hit on by an unwarranted polar bear, but no sweat. Just look into those big beautiful brown eyes, buried beneath thick black untrimmed brows, and say, "Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I need a Cosmo, so get out of my way." Just kidding! You'd end up in a sling before you could say "ball gag."
6. H.G. Rooster's
823 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach
If you're one of the 10 gay people living in West Palm, your best bet is Rooster's. Karaoke on Sundays, Bingo on Mondays, and an entertainer's showcase on Saturdays. This little bar is your one stop shop for anything. You could always go to Respectables (which probs has a 50 percent gay population), but Roosters is that perfect neighborhood dive bar that you want to keep coming back to.
5. Bill's Filling Station
2209 Wilton Drive, Fort Lauderdale
Bill's is the more tame version of Ramrod. Go on a Friday or Saturday night, and it's packed with burly men from god knows where. On a Sunday night, Tranny Palace delivers a free drag show performed by the cast of the drag diner extraordinaire, Lips. Host Misty Eyez is a great MC, but the real stars are Twat Larouge, Tina Torche, and the occasional cameo from Hialeah's Finest, Juliesy y Karla. Karaoke on Tuesdays rounds out the bar, offering up entertainment for both gay and straight patrons alike.
4. New Moon
2440 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
New Moon is the main lesbian bar in all of Broward county. Located across from Rosie's, this indoor/outdoor hotspot includes drink specials, blue jean-wearing bartenders, and a plethora of posters of female singer-songwriters who once might have performed at Lilith Fair. If you love Lisa Loeb, Melissa Etheridge, and Ani DiFranco, this is your new home.
3. Torpedo Bar
2829 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
If you feel the need to drink and dance past traditional closing time, just know that you really shouldn't. Grab a cab home, take a bath, and evaluate your life to figure out what got you to this point of desperation. But if that isn't feasible for you (most apartments only have showers now anyway), there's always Torpedo. Its location is conveniently located just blocks from the Swap Shop, so if you make it to daylight, you can make a pit stop at Denny's then hit up the bargains.
2. The Manor Complex
2345 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
If you just got some new shoes and want to dance with your "girls," there's pretty much only one option in Broward: the Manor. This dance club and restaurant is gigantic. There's a smaller room for hip-hop on some nights and salsa on others. In the main room, there's traditional dance music with shirtless men dancing and singing in sync to some Rihanna song, and everyone looks happy and determined to get laid. More than at Ramrod, these people are dtf, if you know what we mean.
If you don't feel like dancing, you can always crash at the smaller lounge area that serves craft beers and ciders, in case some customers wander over from Gaysha.
2449 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Sunday Brunch to a gay is like Sunday Mass for Catholics. And if you get there too late, your seat at your friend's table is gone, and the next time you try to tag along, you'll get a neurotic: "You can't sit with us."
Rosie's brunch happens to be the best of the best — although their regular menu served daily isn't anything to turn your nose up to either — gay or straight. Their bloody marys are also unbeatable, and for $3, you really can't say no.
The bar advertises itself as "the place to see and be seen." So don't drink too much on Saturday night at the Manor. You wanna look good when being seen.
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