Bars all over the Castro, SoMa, and beyond are getting into the Pride spirit, and many that aren’t LGBTQ year-round are going gay for the weekend, if not the whole week. You’ll even see the Elbo Room fly high the rainbow flag and change its sign back to Amelia’s, the lesbian bar that used to occupy that space. Across the board, expect drinks specials, big events, and crowds to match. Classic gay bars — see SF’s Essential Gay Bars guide — are likely to be packed with pride tourists, which is all well and good. Here are 15 solid, convenient, and generally worthy options for drinking your way through the weekend.Read More
Where to Imbibe During SF Pride 2018
The best bars at which to drink and celebrate
Twin Peaks Tavern
Another historic gay watering hole, Twin Peaks is among the Castro’s oldest bars and the first gay bar in the nation to have featured big windows facing the street where everyone could see who was inside. It’s known for an older crowd, but also just for being a cozy place to catch up with friends around a table and watch the street theater of Castro Street just outside. The drinks are pretty cheap, and this place is known for its Irish coffee and Hot Buttered Rum, both of which are nice on cold summer nights. That pleasant smell inside? It’s from cookies baking at Hot Cookie next door wafting in through a vent in the bathroom.
Lately very popular with the bear community, Midnight Sun will likely be their clubhouse starting with Friday’s typically packed happy hour. Videos play on the bar’s multiple big screens, there are go-go dancers on weekends, and the two-for-one happy hour deal ends up being like four-for-one given how strong their pours are. Given the happy hour situation, this place tends to die down early, though on a holiday weekend it could stay packed all the way through. And this place is a prime destination for Drag Race viewing, so it will be guaranteed to be packed for Thursday’s season finale.
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Beaux, the Castro dance bar where locals are likely to end up after some weeknight boozing, will be keeping the Pink Saturday (RIP) tradition alive with a special party on June 23 featuring Rupaul’s Drag Race winner Sharon Needles. It’s a day party hosted by regular Beaux hostess Au Jus, go-go dancers and all,. The fun kicks off at 4 p.m., with a special meet-and-greet at 5. The show is early (6:30 p.m.), and things will then transition into a dance party Saturday night, The party will rage on after the parade festivities on Sunday, as well — trust.
With the only second-story terrace in the Castro, the Lookout is popular with smokers and those who like to sip a drink while looking down on passersby. It’s also a dance bar with a tiny dance floor and a big rectangle of a bar perfect for taking twirls ‘round the room. The Lookout’s busiest day is typically Sunday, and for Pride weekend they’ll also be doing a Monday “recovery” party for everyone who took the day off. Saturday’s dance party is called Bounce, and there’s also a drag brunch on Saturday hosted by Carnie Asada — yes this place serves food, too.
Gay and lesbian sports fans of all stripes descend on Hi Tops for a lot of big game watching, but this Pride week it’ll be mostly about meeting up here with friends to throw a few back before continuing the bar crawl elsewhere. The place is popular with locals and the food menu, featuring some way-above-average bar fare, is its own reason for making a detour here. Be warned it can get very crowded on weekend nights, and Thursdays after 10 feature go-gos and free-shot boys, and all the sports screens get turned over to soft-core photography of men in jockstraps and the like.
Everyone in the neighborhood is going to be in party mode most of the weekend, but if you want to escape some of the madness, you’ll likely be able to have a semi-civilized cocktail at Blackbird, which is down Market Street at the edge of the Castro ‘hood. This gay-owned establishment makes some of the best and most creative drinks in the vicinity, and this month, the walls are adorned with The Art of Pride, an exhibit featuring all LGBTQ artists.
Though not technically a lesbian bar, El Rio will be an ersatz lesbian bar for part of the weekend, with a Dykes on Bikes fundraiser Saturday afternoon, and a big Dyke March after-party here on Saturday evening. That’s all followed by Queerly Beloved, a mixed-crowd Sunday affair following the parade. As always, Tecates and Palomas come cheap, and the music should be good out on the patio all weekend.
Virgil's Sea Room
Next door to El Rio is this gay-owned spot where Pride weekend will kick off with a lesbian- and queer-friendly party on Thursday called Crazy Sexy Queer, featuring ’90s mixes, go-go gals, and multiple DJs. Otherwise you can stop in for Happy Hour on Friday featuring $5 cocktails until 7 p.m., and all weekend long this should be a mostly chill, LGBTQ-friendly spot to escape the madness next door, or elsewhere in the city.
This self-consciously psychedelic new bar at the Hotel Epik, near Civic Center on Polk, features craft cocktails and snacks, as well as a trippy decor. They’re serving a special cocktail for Pride called The Advokate, made with Absolut Elyx, fresh squeezed orange juice, cassis, and blue curacao, and $1 from the purchase of every one of these drinks will be donated to the creation of The Tenderloin Transgender Cultural District, with a matching donation from Absolut.
Civic Center-adjacent gin joint Whitechapel goes gay this Saturday and Sunday, showing LGBTQ movies on their big screen, playing a Pride playlist all weekend, and serving two special original cocktails in honor of Pride with 50% of the sales going to the SF LGBT Community Center. The bar boasts an extensive cocktail menu with a focus on gin, and a library of some 400 gins to try. If you want to escape the Pride fest madness for a civilized drink, especially on Sunday, this is a convenient choice.
Verso and Forgery
Not usually an LGBT destination, SoMa cocktail bar Forgery and its attached dance club Verso will be lesbian central on Friday night (6/22) with UHAUL’s Pride kickoff party starting at 9 p.m. The club space is huge, with a mezzanine that wraps around it on three sides, but the bar at Forgery is cozier and known for some solid mixology. Los Angeles DJ Good Boy and Las Vegas’s DJ C-L.A. will be spinning, and yes, bottle service is available in a couple of VIP lounge areas.
Oasis is a prime destination for weekend drag spectaculars and dance parties with rotating themes, and Pride weekend will be no exception. The weekend kicks off with Taboo, a monthly dance fest on Friday, continuing with a day party from the Polyglamorous crew on Saturday, followed by a Pink Saturday edition of the drag show Mother featuring rapper Le1f and comedy queen Meatball, and the annual Pride Sunday “pool party” on the roof deck, featuring one very tiny kiddie pool. Drinks can be pricey and small, so you may want to stick to cans of beer.
Folsom Street Foundry
The Official Dyke March After-Party is happening here on Saturday, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., meaning that it’s going to host a big lesbian contingent in SoMa during the same hours that some very gay stuff is going on all along Folsom Street at nearby spots like Powerhouse and Oasis. The event is being co-hosted by popular lesbian club night UHAUL, and it’s a benefit as well, featuring food vendors and a photo booth.’s And ahead of that, it’s Bearracuda’s pride party Friday, so it’ll be all bears before it’s all lesbians.
Aunt Charlie's Lounge
There’s no better place to celebrate the history and diversity of the Tenderloin’s LGBTQ community than at one of the weekend drag shows at Aunt Charlie’s, where a tradition of unironic, old-school drag soldiers on with a crew of seasoned lip sync artists. This charming dive with shockingly cheap drinks (think 1995 prices) will be host to a long-running disco dance party on Thursday (6/21), and the Hot Boxxx Girls show on Friday and Saturday, as they do every weekend, Make sure to have your dollars ready when the queens sashay down the bar’s narrow aisle.
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Notably in its last year in this historic location before moving elsewhere, the venerable Stud will be hosting a series of parties all week, beginning with Kosmetik Pride on Wednesday night, followed by a party for lesbian “femmes” from the Haus of Hoe called Fatal Femmes on Thursday, a gay affair from the Pound Puppy crew on Friday, Luv 4 Luv featuring DJs and live performances on Saturday, and an all-day Pride Sunday party starting at 2 p.m. with drag performances and a half-dozen DJs. Check the place out while you still can, especially if you’ve never been or haven’t been in a while, and soak in this piece of SF gay history.