The Gay Scene

A look at sixteen gay outposts
Named the gayest city in the nation earlier this year by the Advocate, Atlanta will celebrate its fortieth Pride on October 9 and 10. The festivities will include a headlining performance by Idol finalist Kimberley Locke on the main stage in Piedmont Park, plus a kickoff party at the Georgia Aquarium the Friday before. For the uninitiated, explore the world of disco balls and drag queens by perusing these superlative nightlife destinations.
Amsterdam Just behind Piedmont Park, down the street from Bellissima, this video bar is a prime destination during the week. TV monitors—including a 115-incher—surround the huge bar at the center of the club and play music videos from the eighties to the present. 502-A Amsterdam Avenue, 404-892-2227,
Atlanta Eagle Despite last September’s APD raid based on allegations of illicit activities, this Ponce watering hole is still going strong. Harnesses and bearded men abound in the club—and for those seeking to expand their closets in the direction of whips and other bedroom toys, there’s a novelty shop on-site. 306 Ponce de Leon Avenue, 404-873-2453,
Bellissima With an interior design fond of vine motifs and ovular light fixtures, this lesbian lounge has DJ Duck on Saturdays and serves the best cocktails. Ask for bartender Toni and order a fruity, whiskey-based Group Hug. 560-B Amsterdam Avenue, 404-917-0220,
Blake’s on the Park It may not have the biggest dance floor, the largest bar area, the best patio, or the best drag show, but Blake’s does capture the most important superlative when it comes to gay bars in Atlanta: best neighborhood hangout. (Arguably, it also has the cutest boys.) The Midtown bar has two levels: Downstairs dons the occasional drag show, while upstairs the leather booths encourage conversation. Cruising, meanwhile, abounds everywhere. 227 Tenth Street, 404-892-5786,
Burkhart’s Pub If you’re looking for drag, head to this Ansley Square spot, which features the renowned and rotund Mary Edith Pitts every Friday and Saturday. The upper level, with an opening to look down on the main floor, allows more people to see the show—a clear advantage over its strongest rival, Blake’s. For those indifferent to female impersonation, the pub’s patio area, redone last year, is the best in the city. A Florida-garden theme predominates, with a central seating area and bamboo-thronged nooks around the perimeter. The four bars (three on the main floor, one on the second) don’t hurt. 1492-F Piedmont Avenue, 404-872-4403,
Gilbert’s Cafe & Bar Hobnob’s gay older cousin, this spot is ostensibly a Mediterranean restaurant. But after ten, the house music jumps a few decibels and the small space becomes the best place to grab a cocktail and enjoy some downtime after a night at Blake’s. Try the Southern Pride or French Kiss martinis, served in silver martini glasses. 219 Tenth Street, 404-872-8012,
The Heretic As its name implies, this dance spot ain’t for the puritanical of heart. However, the former leather-daddy destination has pared some of its vices, and aside from the TV screens depicting nude male models and a small leather shop in the back, the Heretic is just a cross between Blake’s and the Jungle—but gruffer. With a music selection that includes seventies staples and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” the place feels dance hall queen, sans drag queens. Fridays are its best nights, while Wednesdays are another story—”dress code” night, a fetishistic evening of uniforms and costumes. 2069 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-325-3061,
Joe’s on Juniper Great for a night of pop culture trivia on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this Midtown eatery—with its rainbow flag flying high—caters to a predominantly gay clientele. 1049 Juniper Street, 404-875-6634,
The Jungle Thanks to an expansive dance area featuring mirrors and platforms, a bar that wraps around most of the periphery, recent events such as a Studio 54–type party, and a near-rave atmosphere replete with a mostly topless crowd, this Cheshire Bridge club is the closest approximation that Atlanta has to the now defunct Backstreet, which dominated the gay scene for nearly three decades and closed unceremoniously in 2004. Go on Saturdays for the full effect, even if it means doling out a $10 cover. 2115 Faulkner Road, 404-844-8800,
LeBuzz This Marietta spot bills itself as the only OTP spot for the GLBTQ crowd. Thanks to a new paint job and sound system, along with a decent drag show, it’s become a stronghold in spite of its conservative neighbors. 585 Franklin Road, Marietta, 770-424-1337,
Mary’s Karaoke on Tuesdays is still a lure, but this self-described dive bar in East Atlanta gets most of its appeal from the preponderance of camp and kitsch within its walls. Rainbow lights, dingy seventies-era couches upstairs, hanging lanterns throughout, and tattered black leather barstools clarify that this is a place where appearance and insecurity fall by the wayside. 1287-B Glenwood Avenue, 404-624-4411,
Mixx This Ansley Square newcomer features a poker night and a solid repertoire of cocktails, including one called Dirty Bong Water. 1492-B Piedmont Avenue, 404-228-4372,
My Sister’s Room Though the East Atlanta incarnation of the once-dominant Decatur spot for women who like women has let itself go a tad as it settles into the Village, there’s something fun about MSR’s casual demeanor. 1271 Glenwood Avenue, 678-705-4585,
Swinging Richards When Tuesday rolls around, this all-male strip club drops its cover charge and becomes the only spot worth visiting. Strong drinks combined with all the usual trappings of a strip club—including poles, table dances, and back rooms—make this Westside spot a surprisingly popular draw for straight women, who have been known to go a little loco. 1400 Northside Drive, 404-352-0532,
Woofs The city’s gay sports bar near the Lindbergh MARTA station features team banners and a laid-back vibe. 2425 Piedmont Road, 404-869-9422,
3 Legged Cowboy Heir to Hoedowns, this country-western bar encourages two-steps, line dancing, waltzes, and swing dancing; the spot even offers free dance lessons. 931 Munroe Drive, 404-876-0001,