West Hollywood is generally considered to be the de facto queer capital of Southern California. The thriving and historic Santa Monica Boulevard stretch known as Boys Town has long been a gathering hub for California queer culture and is filled with bars, restaurants, shopping, and other options for the LGBTQ community. But just 25 miles south there’s another thriving queer community in the waterside city of Long Beach, and some feel that the smaller sister city’s scene is not only more approachable and affordable, it offer much of the same history and depth as West Hollywood. Make no mistake: While Long Beach may be primarily known for its tourist attractions, art scene, bustling downtown, and its port — the largest in the nation — the city has a vibrant queer scene, built by local residents, is as open-minded and inclusive as anywhere in the state.
For starters, Long Beach has its own LGBTQ Center offering a library and health services tailored to the LGBTQ community. There’s also an LGBTQ swim team, other gay sports leagues, and even the city hosts its own Pride Parade and Festival. Even the mayor of Long Beach is an out and proud gay man, so it’s no wonder that the city would have its own bar scene catering to the community.
Long Beach’s queer bars may feel less polished and cosmopolitan than those in West Hollywood, and many of the locals prefer it this way. These Long Beach establishments speak to an overlapping but unique audience that’s less concerned with vibes and fashion and more interested in offering a relaxed atmosphere and lower prices. It makes sense given the smaller city’s ties to things like the port and other blue collar economies. That lowered threshold of pretense means less Hollywood gloss, and that’s a good thing for Southern California’s varied queer nightlife.
While there are many other notable establishments like The Crest, Flux Bar, and Hamburger Mary’s, these five spots in Long Beach are good places to start for those looking to visit the area, mingle with locals, and build a new family of fellow queers.
The Falcon is not the biggest space on Broadway, which means the bar sometimes has short lines to get in on busy weekends. The wait is worth it given its dedicated dance floor, which fills up early with friendly patrons. Slide up to the bar and meet bartender Drew, a local favorite who is quick to strike up a conversation and introduce visitors to each other for those looking to make a friend.
The owners also run the Falcon North outpost, in the old Eagle 562 space and is known for their Sunday beer bus crowds.
Many consider Mineshaft to be the anchor of Long Beach’s Broadway corridor, a mile long stretch between Alamitos Avenue and Cherry Avenue with the city’s densest collection of gay establishments. The bar, opened in 1977, literally looks like a mine shaft with exposed beams and wall decor adding to the theme. On weekend nights the space hosts a DJ and a small dance floor, but Mineshaft also has pool tables and a photo booth for those who choose to visit on a weeknight. The owners also own the Brit next door, which has yet to reopen after closing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sweet Water Saloon
SweetWater Saloon has the most lesbian-centric clientele of all the establishments on the Broadway corridor, but they are open and welcome to all. Step inside and visit its long wraparound bar, numerous pool tables, and jukebox. Bartender Josh is famously nice and a local favorite. Remember to visit an ATM before heading over since this place is cash only.
The Silver Fox
The building facade of The Silver Fox is a special visual treat. From the outside, its art deco design looks like a set from 80s television show Miami Vice, but head inside to find a spacious bar area with karaoke (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays) and a video DJ with go-go dancers on Friday and Saturday nights. They also have a spacious outdoor patio where gay sports leagues often gather after games on weekends.
Executive Suite is a three-level club with different theme nights throughout the week Most nights charge a cover, though fans are happy to pay (especially when RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Morgan McMichaels hosts her weekly drag shows in the venue). Check the websitthat week’s entertainment options as they vary often, including everything from drink specials to go-go dancers.