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This New Book Asks, ‘Where Have All the Lesbian Bars Gone?’

A new book investigates.

There are hundreds of gay bars splashed across the country, with 20 in West Hollywood alone. And yet only about two dozen of those bars nationwide are oriented toward lesbians, with the rest drawing a traditionally male clientele. There are more lesbian bars now than there were a few years ago—two opened in L.A. in recent months—but there were a few hundred lesbian bars in the states in the 1980s. So what happened?

With her new book, Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest to Track Down the Remaining Lesbian Bars in America, Krista Burton is intent on finding out. “When I started writing this book, I thought I would come away with two or three reasons why there are fewer now,” says Burton. “But there are tons of different reasons. There are the classics, like saying that women make a lot less money than men. There is the stereotype that lesbians tend to nest up and don’t go out, which is not actually true but sometimes it can feel like it. There is the gentrification of neighborhoods where lesbian bars have historically been. It’s all sorts of different reasons.”

Burton says she wanted to write Moby Dyke because she’s long been glum about lesbian bars closing. “I just wanted other people to feel the same way I did,” she explains. “These are really important spaces and I want them to be recognized as such.” After all, queer bars aren’t just about drinking and dancing: They’re also about building safe spaces and community, connecting with your peers, and helping people find who they really are inside.

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“When I came out,” Burton says, “it was like 2001 or 2002. Lesbian bars were some of the only places at the time that I could go and feel very comfortable holding my girlfriend’s hand or making out on the dance floor surrounded by other people who I was pretty sure were not going to have an issue with it. My first lesbian bar was the [now defunct] Lexington Club in San Francisco and I was just stunned. I had been to gay bars before, but I had never been to a straight-up lesbian bar. I couldn’t believe that everywhere I was looking there was somebody else who also probably liked women. My jaw was on the floor.”

Burton was kind enough to put together some of her favorite lesbian bars for Fodor’s, as well as a few reasons to visit each one.


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The Back Door in Bloomington, Indiana

“One of my top favorites was The Backdoor in Bloomington, which I went to on a Midwestern road trip. It was so fun. The decor is very tacky and DIY on purpose, and it’s incredible. I saw the most phenomenal drag show I’ve ever seen there, and I’m gay so I’ve been going to drag shows for like 20 years. That one was flat-out phenomenal, and I couldn’t believe it because I was in Bloomington, Indiana.”

Alibis in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

“I adored this bar in Oklahoma City called Alibis, which has beach house vibes. It was so fun and laid back. Every person in the bar talked to me, and they had great, delicious, cheap drinks. They had bingo going on, too, and that was very fun.”

Sue Ellen’s in Dallas, Texas

“Another favorite was Sue Ellen’s in Dallas. It’s like a lesbian Studio 54. It’s huge. There are two stories and maybe four separate bars that I could see within the bar. Crazy amounts of dancing, too. Sue Ellen’s was packed when I was there. Like, you were unable to walk through it without people physically touching you and not on purpose. It was such a big bar, too, so I remember thinking, ’How many drinks are they selling every night?’ It’s crazy.”

Walker’s Pint in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“If you’re looking for a great, chill kind of dive, go there. I live in rural Minnesota now, actually, so that’s the closest lesbian bar to me and it’s still 331 miles away.”

The Wildrose in Seattle, Washington

“Whenever I’m in Seattle, I always have to go to the Wildrose. I lived in Seattle for two years, and during that time I pretty much lived at the Wildrose. It’s right in Capitol Hill, near the center of the action, but it also feels like a really great local experience that feels like Seattle.”


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… And the rest of the bars Burton mentions in Moby Dyke

Cubbyhole in New York City

Frankie’s in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Wild Side West in San Francisco, California

Henrietta Hudson in New York City

Gossip Grill in San Diego, California

Slammers in Columbus, Ohio

The Lipstick Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee

Blush & Blu in Denver, Colorado

Pearl Bar in Houston, Texas

Herz in Mobile, Alabama

My Sister’s Room in Atlanta, Georgia

Boycott Bar in Phoenix, Arizona

Babe’s of Carytown in Richmond, Virginia

A League Of Her Own in Washington, DC

Yellow Brick Road Pub in Tulsa, Oklahoma