The DC LGBTQ+ community is no stranger to change. Over the past few decades, countless openings, promising re-openings, and disappointing closings have taught us to expect the unexpected. Dupont Circle, once defined as the city’s gayborhood, is seemingly hanging on by a thread. Is it such a bad thing though? With each closure comes the inevitable, “where to now?” And the new answer seems to be: everywhere.
The question of whether every place can now be considered safe in DC for queer people remains, but an ongoing shift is unmistakable as the LGBTQ+ community has begun to stake out their own space within more traditional watering holes, with outdoor beer garden Dacha, the trendy Takoda, and the bumping nightclub Flash as prime examples.
“DC’s LGBTQ+ community is truly remarkable. We have all sorts of people and all sorts of personalities,” says DJ and nightlife entrepreneur, Ed Bailey. “Because our city is such a magnet for people from all over the world, that keeps our community incredibly diverse. Also, DC is a place where people with ambitious career goals come to pursue things seriously. So, our community is not only diverse, but it is also very smart and that makes for a lively, vibrant nightlife. In general, I expect our hopes for our community are the same as many others’ hopes-that we are just trying to be a truly better community all the time.”
Despite the rainbow extending to more spaces throughout the District, gay bars will always be the most well-lit beacons for the DC queer community to let their hair down, perhaps for the first time ever. Here are the best bars and parties for a night of queer debauchery-from shirtless specials to ’90s dance parties and everything in between. These are the spaces guaranteed not only to make everyone feel safe, but also to have a damn good time.
Downtown New to the DC nightlife scene is a queer DJ collective called Flower Factory, which hosts regular dance parties on the rooftop of the Eaton Hotel. The collective’s self-proclaimed goal is to “create a welcoming, inclusive function with great music and the best in queer and allied talent,” which they do every second Sunday of the month at Wild Days. There’s never a cover charge to enter, just good vibes.
U Street Corridor Peach Pit, a ‘90s dance party at DC9, is a well-loved monthly event “celebrating the decade of Crystal Pepsi, Hypercolor tees, and Doc Martens.” Expect a packed house and be ready to dance all night. DC9 itself is not considered a gay bar and hosts musical acts (mainly indie bands) nearly every night, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out on any ole weekend night-you’ll almost always be in good company as it continually maintains a healthy mix of LGBTQ+ patrons.
Dupont Circle Dupont Italian Kitchen, also lovingly referred to as DIK Bar, is the premier spot for gay karaoke. It’s the kind of place you can come on a Saturday night to drunkenly belt out some Whitney Houston and return on Sunday afternoon for bottomless mimosas.
Adams Morgan Located side-by-side in the heart of Adams Morgan is Pitchers, a multi-level gay sports bar, and A League of Her Own, an adjoining lesbian bar. “ALOHO” is a laid-back spot to toss back a few beers and play a game of billiards or foosball. It’s also one of DC’s first female-inclusive queer spaces to open since the closure of Phase I in 2016, once the longest operating lesbian bar in the nation. A League of Her Own is managed by Jordan “Jo” McDaniel, whose close friend Carlie Steiner says has worked to make the space gender-inclusive, not just for lesbians and those who identify as female. “I think there’s a big difference between calling yourself a lesbian bar and when you use [the word] queer,” says Steiner. “You’re really being much more inclusive of the whole community.”
NoMa Every other Tuesday, make your way over to DC’s only fully LGBTQ+ owned brewery for a raucous night of drag bingo. Each event is hosted by drag queen Desiree Dik, who both calls out numbers during bingo rounds and performs twice throughout the night. Four prizes are also doled out to winners, and if you’re feeling especially thirsty that night make sure to get there before 6 pm to catch the end of happy hour prices.
Downtown Closure of the popular Town Danceboutique has left a gaping hole in the LGBTQ+ nightlife scene, but thankfully there are still regular events to pop your booty to come Saturday evening. One of those is the live DJ series that is Avalon Saturdays, which usually also hosts a drag show with a rotating cast of queens. Sure, the cover is a bit steep at $20 a pop, but the $4 Absolut drinks make up for it.
Shaw Casual dive-y bar TallBoy opened back in 2019, taking over the space that formerly housed Smoked & Stacked. They serve up, you guessed it, tallboy cans of beer, as well as satisfying greasy spoon dishes like chicken wings and grilled cheese. On Monday nights, they have Drag Social happy hours hosted by a queen named Logan Stone with $5 shots and jello shots and $7 cocktails.
Logan Circle Skirting the line between a dive and a dance party, Trade is a narrow, no-nonsense bar with stiff drinks and a backyard patio. If you plan on visiting on a weekend night, expect it to be packed, but make sure to arrive before 10 pm for their “huge” specials, in which you’ll get your vodka soda (or other mixed beverage) served in a pint glass for the same price. The bar also features an array of drag performances-Bailey, a co-owner of the bar, says his favorite memory there was “probably the time the cast of Schitt’s Creek came for a night to judge a ‘Night of a Thousand Moiras’ event, or maybe the time Kim Petras came in after her concert.”
Shaw There’s always a good time to be had at Uproar, with plenty of space to roam thanks to three levels and a large rooftop. Make sure to check out their Bear Happy Hour, a weekly celebration of DC’s bear community on Fridays at 5 pm. Every fourth week you can also look forward to their special BHH: Fetish Fridays, when the second level is transformed into “a dark and dirty Bear Cave”-the perfect time to let your inner freak flag fly.
Dupont Circle Larry’s isn’t the kind of place you go to when you want to get down and funky-it’s a cute neighborhood joint for lively conversation with good friends. A DC institution, Larry’s has maintained its position as a reliable cornerstone in what was once considered DC’s gayborhood. There’s still plenty to love on 17th Street though, also home to the beloved, annual High Heel Drag Queen Race.
U Street Corridor This storied music venue has a new dance party that has taken DC by storm and given the LGBTQ+ community something fun to look forward to following the sad ending of the Mixtape series, halted after a decade of shirtless bumping and grinding. Planned by the 9:30 Club and helmed by a local DJ named Lemz, BENT is a quarterly celebration that features themes and drag performances. “We’re really working hard to make it different every single time,” says Audrey Fix Schaefer, Head of Communications for I.M.P. “So it’s exciting and there are always surprises, but it will always be a place where people feel welcome.”
Downtown Those who have never visited the Green Lantern may have passed by it a million times without even realizing it. Located in an alley off Thomas Circle, this decades-old dive is a welcome respite from the rest of the city with fun happy hour specials and events all week long. Stonewall Kickballers will know it as a place to unwind after games on Sundays, but it’s perhaps best known for its Thursday specials in which shirtless men drink free from 10 to 11 pm and men in underwear get free drinks for a half-hour after the clock strikes midnight.
Logan Circle Made perfectly for the after-work happy hour crowd is Number Nine, a slightly more upscale gay bar than your norm, with two levels. Make sure to hang onto your receipts for their popular BOGO deal, which happens every day until 9 pm. Nothing is off-limits from the 2-for-1 deal either, from Bud Light to top-shelf mixed drinks.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Austa Somvichian-Clausen covers dining and lifestyle for Thrillist and InsideHook, as well as equality and accessibility for The Hill. She’s just as proud to call herself a cat mom to Butter as she is to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Many cannabis brands describe themselves as “lifestyle brands” and “cultural disruptors.” Few of them actually impact lifestyles or broader cultural trends. Only one of them has figurines up on Stock X right now.
“For OG Terp Crawford to be featured amongst Nike, Jordans, Supreme, BAPE, and PS5s is really sick,” says Hope Lord, co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Talking Terps. “Stock X is not taking everyone who makes a toy and putting it up there.”Between their psychedelic graphics, cannabis-adjacent accessories, and famous OG Terp Crawford figurine, Talking Terps has established a cult following amongst cannabis enthusiasts, hypebeasts, and beyond. On paper, it’s a lifestyle brand interested in both cannabis and psychedelics. In action, Talking Terps is an alternative universe that bridges the gaps between toy culture, cannabis culture, psychedelic culture, and American pop culture.
The brand was established as a concept in 2015 by Leor Feit aka Hope Lord, Flatbush Zombies member Antonio Lewis aka Zombie Juice, and Flatbush Zombies spiritual adviser Phil Annand aka PTA Haiti 3000. One year later, the phrase “talking terps” popped in a Flatbush Zombies song, referring to terpenes, a compound found in cannabis.
“We had a show at Red Rocks in Colorado,” Lord recalls. “I had a friend that was part of Blue River Terpenes who brought us the first sample of cannabis-derived terpenes. Then Juice and Erick made a song with it in the chorus.”
Once Talking Terps emerged as a phrase, the graphics, accessories, apparel, events, and, of course, toys were soon to follow. By 2017, the phrase was spotted on one of Snoop Dogg’s t-shirts. In 2019, the concept of Terp Crawford was born, launching the brand towards the collectible toy game.
While the first Terp Crawford was technically a plush pillow, the first toy-named OG Terp Crawford-came in March 2020. The 6-inch tall vinyl sculpture of a humanized weed nug with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face is meant to embody everything Hope, Juice and PTA stand for.
“Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Lord says. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.”OG Terp Crawford drops sell out in actual seconds and resell on sites like Stock X for over double their retail price. More than a simple toy, he’s a figure that Talking Terps hopes will evolve into a full-on cartoon character.
“As time goes, the idea for Terp Crawford is for him to be a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny type figure from our world that can cross over,” Lord says. “There should be no reason one day that Terp Crawford’s not throwing a football in some skit on Monday Night Football.”
That’s not just a high aspiration-the team is currently working with 3 Hearts Entertainment to develop a TV show around him. The goal is for Terp Crawford to go global and for Talking Terps to go meta. With their vast graphic library and club of TT enthusiasts, virtual collectibles like NFTs only make sense (though the team can’t let the terp out of the hat just yet).
“I can see Terp Crawford in Japan, speaking in Japanese on TV,” Lord muses. “Once we take him somewhere else, we could do big sculptures, like at KAWS level, maybe. I think we’ll get a TV show. I can’t speak too much on what we’re working on for the metaverse, but it’s got a lot of components. I can say that we’re building a whole new platform called the meta-forest.”