Longtime Metrosource correspondent Sebastian Fortino takes you to six of the best gay bars in Portland’s Albina, NoPo, Old Town Portland, Northeast Portland, and more. He encourages visitors to keep Portland weird even as they make their nightlife gay.
If you’re coming to visit The Rose City, you need to check out its LGBTQ bar scene. Portland has a very large population of people who identify as queer on some level. There is, therefore, a bar to cater to almost every taste. That’s no matter what letter of the acronym describes you or which tribe you follow.
The city is so diverse, and its numbers of LGBTQ people so large, that some claim there aren’t enough “gay bars” to serve the population. Yet, we are also so welcome in “straight bars” that others critics claim we don’t need the gay bars we have. As there is no longer a set “gayborhood,” our gay establishments are fanned out across Portland. So, potentially, there’s a gay bar near to or in almost every neighborhood.
“All inclusive, all are welcome.” Located in Northeast Portland, Crush Bar inhabits a cozy corner storefront in an historic building. The bar embraces a host of queer events throughout the year. These range from special brunches to “Queer Polyamorous Portlanders” to “Out in Tech” to drag nights and clothing swaps to the burlesque attraction Boylesque. It even hosts the ever-popular “Pants OFF Dance OFF” at another location in the city. They have a full cocktail menu with their take on the Old Fashioned, a titillating French Whore, and a nod to New York summers in the rum and vodka-based Fire Island.
“Let’s be friends.” A cozy bar in the Albina neighborhood, the Local Lounge wants you to consider their place just that: your local bar – with no pretense and good food to boot. The bar is equally known for its diverse roster of events, shows, and clientele as it for its modestly-priced beers and drink specials. Local performers and DJs flock to entertain a diverse spectrum of LGBTQ people at the Local Lounge. There are a variety of options for ethnic dining in the neighborhood as well, should you with to make a full night out of a visit to the Local. Events celebrating queer people of color, trans people, and the lesbian communities frequently take place here. Neighbors casually come in to play the lottery – not as if it’s a gay bar – but rather just their public house with cool music and good beers on tap.
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“Cheers.” This is the last remaining establishment in what was once Portland’s gay neighborhood. (That was called the Pink Triangle or Vaseline Alley in its heyday.) Fittingly, the bar is on Harvey Milk Street, which was just renamed in honor of the late, great, gay civil rights leader. This is the classic gay bar almost every community has (or should have). In the summer, the patio seating sees a broad range of Portland locals. The crowd ranges from younger men – still in college – to older gents who’ll gladly provide an oral history of what Portland was like when there was still a real gayborhood downtown. It’s a favorite for women in the community as well. The daily Happy Hour here is long-lasting. There’s a Bloody Mary bar on Sundays, when its affordable brunch also makes it a favorite. For eats, which can be delivered to you at the bar, check out the diner next door called The Roxy. It serves diner classics 24 hours a day and is a Portland staple.
The Silverado Nightclub
“A Gay Portland Classic.” Portland is known for its strip clubs. In fact, the city has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country. However, these tend to be of the female performer variety. For boy dancers, you need to get yourself to Silverado. It’s the kind of place you take your friend visiting from out of town for a little excitement (or to buy a newly single buddy a lap dance. It’s the right combination of a little bit sexy and little bit naughty to round out a visit to Portland.
Be warned, they are a cash only establishment. Which makes sense. You can’t tip a dancer with a credit card.
The Portland Eagle
“Authentic. Masculine. Be authentic. Be yourself.” Located in yet another charming neighborhood, that of NoPo in North Portland, The Portland Eagle comes with what you’d expect of a venue associated with the Eagle franchise of leather bars. Porn flicks stream, the walls are painted black. The day after colleagues and friends frequently comment, “I only go there if I want to ge into trouble.” With themed nights encouraging you to bare all but your underwear, fetish wear or leather gear, “trouble” mostly just means good clean fun. The bears do roam here; but so do the twinks and the twunks and the otters and the cubs! A sign even encourages naked pool – at all times. Sunday offers a community classic, a barbeque with free hot dogs, hamburgers, fixings, and happy hour prices. A sexy Latin guy may flirts with you, a cheerful bear may buy you a beer, and that guy you saw on the bus last night may drop his pants and meet you at the pool table.
“Portland Oregon’s Hottest Nightclub.”
The large venue in Old Town Portland is currently Portland’s only “gay nightclub” – if by that you mean a place where you can dance, drink, and drag queen. Though you can hunt down some similar offerings at events throughout the city, if you want a stand-alone brick and mortar nightclub, this is the only one. Their main space offers performances and shows throughout the week. Next door the Rainbow Room Martini Lounge is an over-the-rainbow space to chat, flirt, gossip or dish. The drinks are expertly crafted by resident drag performer Madame DuMoore, aka the Drag Queen Bartender. The personalities Madame creates are part drag, part dream, part performance art, and part Club Kid. But the fun goes well beyond her appearance. Madame’s martinis and other concoctions are just as beautifully put together as the looks she serves.
Last modified: April 2, 2019