Even before the pandemic, lesbian bars were an endangered part of LGBTIQ+ culture.

Today, of the nearly 63,000 bars in America, just 23 of them are lesbian bars — down from about 200 in the 1980s. Maybe it’s online dating, neighborhood shifts or societal changes that have diminished the number of dedicated lesbian spaces. But no matter the reasons, The Lesbian Bar Project is raising funds and awareness about the small handful of full-time queer-gal hangouts still open from coast to coast.

After raising more than $260,000 since its 2020 launch, The Lesbian Bar Project has boosted support for these last-standing bars, thanks partly to the support of multi-talented performer Lea DeLaria. DeLaria narrates and executive produced the short documentary of the same name, directed by Erica Rose and Elina Street, which is up for a Tribeca Film Festival award in 2022.

Beyond the project, though, there’s the IRL way to show some love for lesbian bars: visiting them for some in-person patronage (matronage?) in any of the 20 US cities where they’re still shaking, stirring and pouring. Of course, these bars are there mainly for lesbian and queer folx to feel safe and comfortable, but respectful LGBTIQ+ allies are welcome — and hey, there’s always room to throw back a shot and a beer, just like DeLaria in the short film. 

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The jovial scene inside NYC's Cubbyhole
The jovial scene inside NYC's Cubbyhole © Cubbyhole

Henrietta Hudson & Cubbyhole, New York City: West Village icons of lesbian culture

Each of these legendary bars have served lesbians of Manhattan and beyond since the early 1990s, when they were among several other downtown girl bars. They’re owned by two different women, and serve up different vibes—i.e. Cubbyhole is adorably compact, while Henrietta Hudson is roomy with dancing and karaoke. But they are both beloved lesbian-centric institutions of the West Village, located just a few blocks apart, and a lovely walk from the Stonewall National Monument.

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Wildrose, Seattle: Serving the best of the Pacific Northwest’s lesbian scene

Anchoring the lesbian contingent of Seattle’s LGBTIQ+ neighborhood since 1984, the Wildrose has everything you’ll ever want or need in a corner bar. There’s a pool table, happy hour, karaoke, theme nights, DJs, a flirty bar for singles and plenty of tables for old friends. 

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Sue Ellen's lesbian bar in Dallas
Sue Ellen's lesbian bar in Dallas © Courtesy of Sue Ellen's

Sue Ellen’s, Dallas: Send the boys to JR’s and invite the women here

Opened in 1989 and occupying its spot on Throckmorton Street since 2008, Sue Ellen’s is the longtime ladies’ choice of Oak Lawn in central Dallas. With two stories, an outdoor patio, pool tables and stage for live shows, it’s easy to start early with happy-hour drinks at the bar, and end by kicking up your heels with late-night dance parties. 

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Herz, Mobile, Alabama: Southern fave for sports, hookahs, and fancy cocktails

In a state that’s politically flaming red, you’ve got to raise a glass in solidarity with Herz for representing and serving the LGBTIQ+ community in Mobile, Alabama. Opened by dynamic married duo Sheila and Rachel Smallman in 2019, Herz survived the pandemic with support from The Lesbian Bar Project and loyal locals who rely on such a friendly community gathering place in the conservative South—not unlike Stonewall-era bargoers, who needed a place just to be themselves.

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Blush & Blu, Denver: Drag kings and burlesque are only the beginning

Just down from Denver’s LGBTIQ+ Center on Colfax is another community space, this one with all manner of lesbian-centric fun. Blush & Blu is a three-story bar with strong cocktails, arcade games, a library lounge, and a busy calendar of events spanning burlesque shows, poker nights, live comedy, lesbian speed dating, and more.

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Walker's Pint in Milwaukee
Walker's Pint in Milwaukee © Courtesy of Walker's Pint

Walker’s Pint, Milwaukee: The corner tap for everyday janes and sports fans

Maintaining a safe, friendly spot for women is the mission of Walker’s Pint, one of the best, easygoing hangouts for lesbians in the Midwest. It’s occupied its 2nd Street corner in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood since 2001, drawing mostly women (and a mix of other folx) for pool, patio time, live music and local Bucks, Brewers and other big games. 

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Wild Side West, San Francisco: The West Coast’s oldest lesbian bar still pouring

This San Francisco outpost of lesbian pride has welcomed radically queer flirtations since 1962. It moved from its original Broadway location up to Bernal Heights back in 1976, and today Wild Side West still feels the love of devoted queer women (and their pals) who flock here for weird-but-true trivia nights, stiff drinks and its eclectic beer garden. 

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My Sister’s Room, Atlanta: Hotlanta’s favorite Midtown women’s bar

Celebrity pop-ins, live shows, strong drinks and sultry weekend soirees keep Georgians coming back to My Sister’s Room in Midtown Atlanta. This out, proud lesbian-owned club has welcomed women since 1996, amplifying the “L” in the LGBTIQ+ appeal around Piedmont Avenue.

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Ginger’s Bar, Brooklyn, New York: Proud queer outpost in the heart of Brooklyn

The last official lesbian bar in the outer boroughs of New York City, Ginger’s brings the cool old-school pub vibes to Park Slope. Bartenders and patrons are equally sociable, making this one of the easiest bars in town to belly up solo and meet new friends. There’s a pool table, drink specials, karaoke nights and a fabulous back yard usually buzzing with a mix of lesbians and the people who love them.

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Pearl Bar, Houston: The lesbian hitching post of Houston

Many agree with Pearl Bar’s self-proclamation of being “The best damn lesbian bar in Texas.” This giant, rustic-style bar is a quick jaunt from Montrose, Houston’s LGBTIQ+ neighborhood. Women love the big, colorful patio, crawfish boils and barbecues, rollicking shows and Pearl Bar’s great big heart, where queer folx come to carouse with their community.

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On a note of optimism, several bold entrepreneurs have added even more pride to the lesbian bar roster of late. Here’s a special shout-out to three brand-new queer-gal hangouts, all opened in the past year: Nobody’s Darling, a refined cocktail lounge in Chicago’s Andersonville; As You Are, in Washington, DC, a cafe and bar that warmly welcomes lesbian, trans and non-binary folx; and The Sports Bra, Portland, specializing in all things women’s sports. 

Check out the Lesbian Bar Project website here for other great spots for queer women in seven other US cities, and to contribute to the cause with a donation or an in-person visit.

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