Gay and Lesbian Nightlife in San Francisco

In the days before the gay liberation movement, bars were more than mere watering holes—they also served as community centers where members of a mostly underground minority could network and socialize. In the 1960s, the bars became hotbeds of political activity; by the 1970s, other social opportunities had become available to gay men and lesbians and the bars' importance as centers of activity decreased.

Old-timers may wax nostalgic about the vibrancy of pre-AIDS, 1970s bar life, but you can still have plenty of fun. A major difference is the one-night-a-week operation of some of the best clubs, which may cater to a different (sometimes straight) clientele on other nights. This type of club tends to come and go, so it's best to pick up one of the two main gay papers to check the latest happenings.

Bay Area Reporter. The weekly Bay Area Reporter ( covers LGBTQ events in its entertainment pages and calendar and has a nightlife section on its website (

San Francisco Bay Times. The biweekly Bay Times ( runs features and provides extensive calendar listings of LGBTQ events.

For a place known as a gay mecca, San Francisco has a surprising drought of lesbian bars. The Café is probably the most lesbian-friendly Castro bar, though you'll find queer gals (and many more queer guys) at the Mint, too.

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