History Lesson

Another historic San Francisco gay bar just closed. Here are 13 others we miss every happy hour

Recently, we guided you through a list of iconic gay destinations, highlighting places that have endured despite cultural changes. But when San Francisco’s longest running gay bar, Gangway, closed last month, it got us thinking: what about the places that didn’t make it?

Wrought by dating apps and rising urban real estate prices, and in at least two cases, the bigotry of the owner, our favorite watering holes are drying up left and right.

We’ve dug up some memories of yesteryear to drop some historic LGBTQ bar knowledge. We found the very first known gay bar, the most recent gay bar closing, and even the shortest lasting bar.

In memoriam: Here’s a list of iconic gay bars that we’ve lost over the last century.


13. Burkharts, Atlanta

In January 2018, news and screenshots surfaced of the bar’s 70-year-old owner, Palmer Marsh, using racial slurs in Facebook messages. Business quickly declined and after over 30 years in business, the Midtown gay and drag bar shuttered in February.

12. Palace Bar & Grill, Miami Beach

The legendary drag bar thrived on Miami’s Ocean Drive for 29 years. After fighting rent increases, the last rainbow shimmer of LGBTQ life along this South Beach corridor dimmed in 2017.

11. Gangway, San Francisco

San Francisco’s oldest gay bar, which began pouring drinks in 1910, “came out”as a queer space in 1961. Their last call came in January 2018 and the space is rumored to become a laundromat that screens movies.

10. Propaganda, Hong Kong

One of the longest-running and largest nightclubs in Central Hong Kong, the legendary event space closed in 2016 after 25 years.

9. The Black Cap, London

The self-declared “Home of RuPaul’s Drag Race in the UK,” this gay pub and popular drag venue was an important meeting point for various support groups, the older LGBTQ community, ethnic minorities, and hate crime outreach work. It opened in the 1960s and closed in 2015.

8. Roxy NYC, New York City

Referred to by many as the “Studio 54 of roller rinks,” this popular Chelsea nightclub and roller disco began in 1978. Madonna even performed here back in the day. Its last call came in 2007.

7. Dixie’s Bar of Music, New Orleans

One of the first gay bars in 1950s New Orleans, Dixie’s drew the likes of Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal. In 2011, lesbian proprietor Yvonne ‘Miss Dixie’ Fasnacht died at age 101.

6. Jack’s on the Waterfront, San Francisco

Back when being gay was illegal, Jack’s was a leather bar along the Embarcadero (1952 -1963). The underground dive is said to have a sign that read: “you are subject to a raid at any time.”

5. The Napoleon Club, Boston

Once a favorite for theater students and older men, Napoleon Club existed from the 1950s to 1998. Elton John and Judy Garland visited. The go-to piano bar location eventually sold for nearly $2 million.

4. The Double Header, Seattle

Established in 1935, it was one of the oldest gay bar on the West Coast and is thought to be the oldest gay bar in America. It closed in 2015. The name derived from having separate restrooms for men and women.

3. The Casino Pool Room, Seattle

In 1930, downstairs from the Double Header (#5), Casino Pool Room became a national underground gay hangout. By the 1950s, this space became an after-hours haven for drag queens.

2. Evita, Tel Aviv

Israel’s most culturally diverse location and the Middle East’s most LGBTQ-friendly city closed its only gay bar in 2016 after 12 years in business.

1. Mister Sister, Vermont

Possibly the most brief stint is this Vermont bar which had good intentions. After outrage ensued regarding the name’s likeness to a transgender slur, the bar owner changed Mister Sister to The Bridge Club, but it was too little too late. The bar shuttered after just three months.

Photos courtesy of respective businesses

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