3 Gay Bars to Check Out in San Francisco

Sam More

The LGBT culture in San Francisco has always been one of the most prominent in North America. Right up there with New York City, the city has been called the “gay capital of the world” and “the gay Mecca”. Dating all the way back to 1908, when the first openly gay bar was opened. “The Dash” was a visible gay bar where waiters cross-dress and even performed sex acts. After a notable, high profile judge was linked to the bar shortly after opening, the bar was closed. Jump forward to 1964, when Life Magazine announced San Francisco as the “Gay Capital of America”. Other notable dates regarding the LGBT culture in San Fran include 1970 when the first Gay Pride Parade happened when 20-30 people marched down Polk Street in San Fran’s first gay rights march. This was the start of the Gay Freedom Day Parade, known today as Pride. Fun fact: Did you know the Pride Flag was designed in San Francisco? In 1978, Gilbert Baker, an artist from San Fran, created the design in response to a call for a symbol for the community. 


Those are only a few reasons why San Francisco is noted as the top LGBT friendly city in North America. I encourage you to research more history about the LGBT culture that has been alive and thriving in San Fran for decades! Today, we will be listing 3 (even though there’s WAY more than just 3) gay bars you must check out if you ever find yourself in the gay Mecca. 

3. The Edge

If you are looking for a diverse, local fave The Edge has you covered. The Edge is located in the heart of the famous Castro district. Serving the community over 25 years, this bar is a warm and welcoming spot that hosts drag shows every Thursday and also reserves Monday, Wednesdays and Sundays for musical theater with musicals on film and stage starting at 7pm! Tuesdays are reserved for the Dragula Viewing Party. On their website, The Edge says they have a truly happy “happy hour”. For drinks, there are two-for-one drinks on Mondays and Wednesdays so how could it not be the best time?! The friendly staff are also highlighted in multiple reviews online and the bar is open 365 days a year! 

2. Midnight Sun

This spot is one of the oldest bars in the Castro (over 50 years) and it’s not hard to see why it’s become such a staple in the SF gay community! Midnight Sun used to be referred to as “video bar”,  as the bar famously is always playing music videos from every timeline as well as re-running some funny SNL skits. With its unique format, the bar quickly gained notoriety in the village, becoming a popular place to watch viewing parties such as Drag Race and other gay TV events (superbowl halftime show anyone?). Voted Best Happy Hour in SF, Midnight Sun is a popular bar with bears, who come out in heaps for Friday’s two for one happy hour drinks. There are also go-go boys dancing on the bar all night which certainly helps draw a hungry crowd! Monday’s are reserved for drag shows, hosted by San Fran’s own drag royalty Mercedes Munro. 

1. Powerhouse

We saved the best (and the raunchiest) for last! This place has everything for everyone. Powerhouse is a kink-friendly dive bar that hosts sex positive parties and events. With an eclectic range of nights including wet underwear contests and even smelly armpit contests (they even have a designated No Cologne zone), this venue is open to it all. Powerhouse opened under its current ownership in 1997 and they have never defined who their clientele is targeted towards? Twinks? Cruisers? Bears? Punks? All are welcome to come and enjoy the space. You’ll find the hottest crowd, the liveliest music and soon see why Powerhouse is the biggest and most popular South of Market bar.

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