The promise of Spring creeps closer towards us, and people all over the Island are ready to hang up their winter coats and get out of the house again. However, if you identify as part of Long Island’s LGBTQ community, the options of blatantly queer spaces to go and live your best life in are, unfortunately, somewhat limited.
Although gone are the days of the gay megaclubs out here, there are still many places that are queer-owned or queer-based and are rearing up for the gays to flock to as the weather warms up. So whether you’re nostalgic for the nightlife of the 80’s and 90’s or you’re looking for a new space to get to intimately know, there are plenty of solid options if you’re looking to get your gay on.
One of the most prominent queer spaces on Long Island right now that is lighting up the community is BTW in Oceanside. Opened up mid-pandemic, this cozy eatery boasts a full menu of delicious dishes and an array of specialty cocktails. But it’s not just your taste buds that will be having a good time! BTW hosts an array of weekly events, from dance nights with live DJs and drag shows to karaoke and wine & cheese nights. Though its owners identify as straight, they knew exactly what the LGBTQ community needed in the harsh realities that 2020 brought. And from being covered in a multitude of outlets such as magazines and local news, as well as a special on ABC7, this hidden gem is already shining extremely bright.
A queer staple of Long Island that has held onto the glory days of gay nightlife is the colorful cocktail hideaway of Lizard Lounge. This immersive space takes you to the days where lights, lasers, fog machines and mirrors ruled the after hours, but with a modern twist. Affixed to the bar tops and walls are televisions hooked up to none other than various video game consoles, with which they host regular gaming tournaments with the “gaymer” community of Bohemia and beyond. So whether you’re looking for an evening at a Babylon-esque lounge or want to grab a casual drink and play a few rounds of Smash Bros, Lizard Lounge has you covered.
Probably the most historic of the surviving gay bars on Long Island is NuBar, a chill yet inviting space that boats stiff drinks, great nibbles and a loyal customer base of locals that have been partonizing the bar for years. Having been under new management for six years now, the beloved local spot continues to grow and attract new patrons with their lively karaoke nights and new monthly shows that feature some of the best in local drag entertainment. They’re also one of the spots that isn’t afraid of a little inclement weather! So if it’s snowing or raining and you still want a good drink, check out their Facebook page as they always post if the bar is open when you think it might not be.
Among the newest of things to hit the LGBTQ scene is a brand new party night at Park West in Wesbury, “a party for us, by us.” Headed up by some of the long-standing names in Long Island gay nightlife, Park West Fridays is a callback to the once lost days of Thunders and the Bunkhouse. A humble red-lit doorway leads into a cavernous room bookended by sprawling bars and a laser-clad dance floor. A rotating cast of DJs and drag queen hosts will keep this party bumping well into the warmer weather.
It may not be considered Long Island proper, but that big borough of Queens attached to our stretch of land offers some great options for gay bars as well. In Astoria, you’ll find two very popular queer spots worth checking out. Right off the Grand Central before you hit the bridge you’ll find Albatross tucked away on the quaint corner of 24th Avenue. What first seems like a gallant dive bar quickly morphs into a lively, local experience with people coming from all over the borough to partake in their game nights or catch one of their weekly drag shows on their towering mainstage.
Go a little bit further into the hustle and bustle of Astoria and you’ll come across ICON, a gay bar that isn’t shy about making its presence known. Akin to Lizard Lounge, the mega club feel and stretched-out bar instantly give you that classic nightlife feel. With creative cocktail specials every week and a slew of over-the-top drag shows and competitions, ICON gives you a little something of everything for a stellar and thoroughly queer night out.
As the weather gets more tolerable and you’re itching for some action, be sure to visit one of these queer spaces you haven’t been to in a bit, or try out one that you’ve never stepped foot in before. The reality is, without people going out and supporting, these places may face the same fate as some treasured LGBTQ venues we once had and enjoyed. So get on out there and be GAY!