Houston Pride Week is coming up and runs from June 21 to 28, so this seems like the perfect time to present this list of the best gay bars in Houston. With the Houston LGBT Pride Festival and Parade’s move to downtown this year, away from its traditional location along Westheimer in Montrose, it will be interesting to see how many attendees make their way back over to Houston’s historical gayborhood and many of the bars on this list to hang out after the parade is over; we are betting a lot of people will, as well as making regular visits to these spots throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
Note: This List is in alphabetical order.
F Bar is a club and bar where the DJs crank up the music and the dance floor fills up quickly on Friday and Saturday nights; the regulars take a break from dancing by lounging in comfortable leather seats and couches while drinking heavily poured cocktails. Popular weekly drag shows are featured here on Tuesday and Sunday nights, and on Fridays F Bar rains men with the F Men taking center stage. Other features include a nice outdoor patio with a fire pit, plasma TVs showing music videos, and a giant crystal chandelier over the dance floor; one very unique feature is the unisex bathroom. (202 Tuam, fbarhouston.com)
GEORGE'S COUNTRY SPORTS BAR
Despite the name, George’s Country Sports Bar is more of a friendly, laid-back neighborhood place than a sports bar, and the patrons are not always particularly country; often you’re more likely to hear Lady Gaga on the jukebox than George Strait. There is never a pretentious crowd here, and the regulars like to play darts or pool while drinking beers; a small porch out front does give the place a little bit of a country feeling in the big city. Texans games can draw a crowd during football season, and patrons can step outside to the back patio to take a smoke break as well if needed. (617 Fairview, facebook.com/George-Country-Sports-Bar)
Located in a Montrose shopping center near Allen Parkway, Guava Lamp is a chic and clean video bar and martini lounge that's famous for its popular karaoke night every Wednesday; for Pride Week, Guava is bringing in Las Vegas Chippendale dancer Jaymes Vaughan, who also starred on CBS television’s The Amazing Race, to co-host karaoke with diva Kara Dion on June 24. Guava will also be operating a shuttle that will take patrons downtown to the Pride Festival and Parade on June 27 from 4 p.m. to midnight. On Tuesday nights, another popular weekly event at Guava is the always-fun Drag Bingo, which starts at 10 p.m. (570 Waugh, guavalamphouston.com)
JR'S BAR & GRILL
JR’s Bar & Grill is probably Houston’s most famous gay bar, and this longtime Montrose establishment has been at the center of gay nightlife in our fair city for many years now. Like Guava Lamp, JR’s has an impressive karaoke night, as well as drag shows and amateur male strip contests throughout the week. There is no dance floor here since it's a bar, but the dance and pop music is loud and scantily clad male dancers sway back and forth to it while standing upon elevated platforms on both sides of the bar awaiting dollar-bill tips; TV screens throughout the bar show music videos, and a large patio outside is available for those wanting to smoke. Pool tables and video games are at the ready as well, and despite the name, there is no kitchen here. (808 Pacific, jrsbarandgrill.com)
METEOR URBAN VIDEO LOUNGE
Meteor’s claim to fame is its meteor showers that can be viewed on Friday and Saturday nights; no, these are not celestial events, they're real working showers onstage where men shower and dance wearing nothing but short-shorts for patrons lounging on white leather couches. Customers not into this sort of thing can go to the other side of Meteor, where a circular bar and pool table await them in a more traditional bar setting. Other weekly events include a wet underwear contest every Tuesday night and an amateur drag show, "So You Think You Can Drag," on Thursdays. (2306 Genesee, meteorhouston.com)
MONTROSE MINING COMPANY
Open since 1978, the Montrose Mining Company lives up to its name since the bar is as dark as an underground coal mine upon entrance; the crowd tends to be older here, with “bears” and “daddies” counted among the regular patrons, along with leather/Levi's aficionados. Male dancers entertain onlookers in the corner of the bar while they drink cheap, stiff drinks; a large patio outside offers refuge to those wanting to escape the darkness for a bit, and features an elevated section that gives a nice bird’s-eye view of the proceedings going on out on Pacific Street down below and in front of JR’s and South Beach across the street. (805 Pacific, facebook.com/MontroseMiningCompany)
NEON BOOTS DANCEHALL & SALOON
This Spring Branch-area country and western bar is located in the former space of the historic Esquire Ballroom, which hosted legendary country acts like Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson and George Jones dating back to the 1950s. Neon Boots has more than 10,000 square feet of space and a large dance floor; country dance lessons are offered free on Thursdays for newbies. In addition to the DJs who play country music here, Neon occasionally hosts live bands onstage; Wednesday is a big night, as a steak or chicken dinner is offered, a bingo game is held and the karaoke stage is open to all willing participants. A free shuttle with round trips will take patrons to the Pride Festival and Parade downtown from Neon Boots from 4:30 to 11:30 p.m. on June 27. (11410 Hempstead Hwy., neonbootsclub.com)
Ripcord’s owner says this Houston institution is the oldest leather bar in Texas, and the place has something of a reputation for being scary and seedy to the uninitiated; however, the bartenders and patrons are a welcoming and friendly bunch. On Friday and Saturday nights, a patio entrance to the Blackhawk Leather Shop out front is open for all the leather needs of patrons; Ripcord does welcome everyone, so you don’t have to be into the leather and Levi's scene to drop in for a drink. In fact, the Ripcord can feel more like a neighborhood bar than a leather bar much of the time, and has recently added show-tune singalongs on Sundays and a trivia night on Wednesdays in addition to the theme nights catering to various fetishes throughout the month. Cheap drinks, a jukebox, a pool table and the large patio also keep the regulars coming back. (715 Fairview, facebook.com/ripcordbar)
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Inspired by the nightlife scene in South Beach, Florida, this large Montrose dance club brings in a young crowd that likes to dance all night to DJs spinning upbeat techno and EDM; a state-of-the-art sound system, laser light show, and liquid ice jets that can cool the dance floor down by 20 degrees in a matter of seconds are among the features of the club. Also known for its scantily clad male dancers, drag shows and foam parties, South Beach will be hosting the official after party of the Houston LGBT Pride celebration on June 27 at 10 p.m. with RuPaul's Drag Race Season 7 contestant Mrs. Kasha Davis and nationally recognized award-winning DJ Wess from Washington D.C. on hand to help with the celebrating. (810 Pacific, southbeachthenightclub.com)
TONY'S CORNER POCKET
This friendly dive bar serves up cheap drinks and hosts male dancers/strippers, including contestants who come in for the weekly amateur strip contests; Wednesday is Gayme (Game) night, which features trivia, free pool and darts, board and card games, and the occasional Diva Bingo game hosted by a local drag queen. Speaking of drag queens, Tony’s hosts an annual Miss Tony’s Corner Pocket pageant and other drag shows throughout the year. The multilevel outdoor patio provides a nice view of downtown’s skyline and is a popular destination to watch Houston’s Freedom Over Texas fireworks show on the July 4 holiday. (817 W. Dallas, tonyscornerpocketbar.com)