18 Queer and Queer Friendly Bars That Might Not Be On Your Radar
January 11, 2023
April 10, 2023
Cute spots around the city that are queer-owned, queer-run or just queer friendly.
There are barely any gay bars left in Toronto. Let alone queer bars or queer spaces. Since we launched this article in 2021, a few spots on the list have since closed?! (That’s Cherry Cola’s, Lavendar Menace and a couple others) Just because a bar or club hosts queer nights or events doesn’t always mean they're a queer space, there are nuances and so many more things to think about than putting a drag queen on stage and queer person behind the decks. This is why a list like this is more important than ever - these are spaces that although not all are queer bars, they are doing to the work to ensure we are safe.
The city is in desperate need of new 2SLGBTQ+ spots to gather, dance, party, talk, work, hang, chill and rage. While we navigate our community’s comeback (‘cause queers love a comeback story!), we’ve put together a list (in no particulart order) of spots on our radar that are either queer-owned, queer-run, queer bars or queer-friendly.
If we missed any that you love, let us know and we’ll check them out and hopefully add them to this list!
This cutie little bar in Chinatown East is run by the same queen who used to run Handlebar, so you know it’s a great spot for music, chill people and a light theme. If you’re looking for a date spot, a place to hear a DJ / selector play records (one of our faves HotGayDaddy who many of y’all might remember from the Eagle spins here) and old movies on the screens, then Farside is a super queer-friendly spot you might feel at home in.
Mandy Goodhandy, the legend, has opened up her very own pub on the Danforth. Previously knows as The Old Nick, Mandy’s Bistro will be a pub-style spot with comedy nights, live music, food and eventually an event space in the basement. This is a welcoming, local-vibe spot for casual drinks and hanging out. Proudly Queer owned and operated.
This used to be Statler’s, and now it’s a two-story party house with a shower inside! Yes! Toronto finally has a bar where go-go dancers can slither in a speedo in front of a thirsty audience. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s a new spot for drag and drinks in the village, so go in with low expectations and you’ll have a great time!
Down in the grotto on Dundas West is this little legendary club. Recently renovated, it’s one of the best sound systems in the city and Bambi’s brings in a super impressive roster of local and international DJs. Hosting nights like Wishing Well, Tapette and Nunu, it’s a spot where drunk straight folks will sometimes stumble into, and then promptly stumble our because there is no room for BS in this 80-person mini-club. Check their IG (or our event listings section) for party listings and be ready to dance. Headsup, there’s no coat check and they sometimes have their slush machine operating :)
This bar is tucked away behind an art gallery on Dundas West isn’t queer-owned or even officially a queer space, the owners are cool AF and the vibe is the one. Like, y’all, this hidden spot is STUNNING, dark, moody, margarita heavy and vibesss. It’s a great date night spot or solo barstool place to sketch or ponder life.
Fridays and Saturdays at Rico’s are a trip. It’s a dance party, a drag show, a salsa dancing lesson, a pageant… it’s a lot. The crowd is super mixed in the best way possible… A Latinx bar at its core - Rico’s is a great place to see drag you won’t see in the village, and a whole new set of people you might or might not be able to go home with. It IS on college street, though pretty far west, so just take care and be aware once you leave the bar late at night.
Some y’all might have discovered the fountain thanks to our Dundas West Fest parties a few years back, or you might have already loved this very witch-y spot covered in macabre décor and details… but The Fountain has always been a welcome spot for queer folks. Many of the bartenders are queer, it’s cozy, welcoming, non-judgemental and dark. Just how we like it…
We have a MASSIVE crush on Grape Witches. This is a bottle shop, but the staff are so lovely and helpful and beautiful (many of them queer), we’ve always felt welcome here. They’re backyard (hopefully opening this summer) has a WATER FEATURE!… they also have cute one-off nights. They have very cute seating and tables inside where you can sit and snack on wines by the glass or the bottle, snacks and super fun music.
A Kensington haunt that’s always been supportive of the community with fun party programming (let’s get back to that ASAP shall we?), live music shows, and a (very cute and friendly) staff always makes anyone feel welcome. This isn’t an official queer bar, but you’ll feel right at home on their front patio porch or inside the cozy bankets in inside. The recent queer music showcase starring our boo’s Cerena, Myst Milano, Quarterback and HIU is a very promising night of GAY things to keep coming.
This adorable lil’ neighbourhood spot on King street in Parkdale. They also made our queer and queer(ish) patio guide last summer :) It’s a coffee spot, a bottle shop and an adorable wine bar with super yummy cocktails, great music, friendly folks behind the bar, and their legendary Shrimpy Burger is a MUST.
Tucked in between The Baby G (and Splash, the west-end’s only bathhouse!) and a string of cute Little Portugal businesses, bakeries and bars is this perfectly sleazy new spot. Mama’s isn’t queer owned, but they host a great karaoke night, burlesque, drag shows and Gaydaze. Nina the owner wants this to be a safe and inclusive space for our queer family, and so far the reviews are all five stars. Vibe is dive-bar meets lounge, meets cozy and queer.
Paradise Grapevine (two locations!)
With a cozy location on Bloor West near Christie Pits (who also made our patio list!) and another stunning spot up on Geary, Tammy’s Wine Bar is host to the legendary Tuesday night Queer Wine Night’s and their staff are the most queer and queer friendly… it’s a dream. Like, if we were new kids to the city, or older queers going into this place for the first time, our gay hearts would melt and we would be back over and over again. It’s a warm, super cool spot for wine (they make their own!), special wine nights and other cute happenings. 10 out of 10, would recommend.
Take us out to the ball game! This is partially queer-owned sports bar in Parkdale! We spoke Veronica (one of the partners) real quick online and they told us “we have made a point to specifically say we are a queer friendly sports bar because we believe many venues of this nature often do not create a safe space for all folks.
They continue, “We also understand that with one of our owners being a cis white male, we are not willing to take up a space we don’t belong in by calling ourselves a ‘queer/gay sports bar’. But if the queer community wants to call us that, we are A-OK with the label. The most important thing to all of us is creating a safe space for anyone, our staff, the Parkdale community, queer folks and anyone wanting to enjoy sports, a game of pool, foosball or golden tee.” Sign us up!
A true escape in the city, walking into the Shameful Tiki is like walking into a another world. It’s warm, cozy, truly tropical and literally has some of the most unique and exciting cocktails in the city. This spot is queer-owned and always welcoming to family.
This west-end haunt has a punk, hole-in-the-wall rock bar vibe and recently added disco night DJ’d by Fawn Big Canoe every month! If you’re looking for a zero-attitude spot for cheap drinks, dark lighting, and freaky décor, this is a great spot. It’s not a full-on queer bar, but some of the staff is bent and the attitude is always NO BS. Oh, there is also pinball machines.
The OG on Ossington, Sweaty Betty’s has been around for a very long time, but it’s only in the last few years that it’s been an officially queer-owned bar. May, the owner is an angel, and cares so much for this community. She’s also one of the original Hump Day Bump organizers! A legend walking among us. May has been infusing more queer nights and DJ’s into the dive bar's schedule, with drag shows on the side walk a couple times a month. Betty’s also has one of the best hidden patio’s in the city, and you’ll also meet some of the staff from The Beaver working here now! We love you May and Betty!
We love you Tammy! Found in deep parkdale around Queen and Roncesvalles, this wine bar and coffee shop is the sister bar to Tommy’s (on Dundas West, who host a queer techno and house night every Wednesday). The art inside, the staff, the Sunday night karaoke night, lesbian dance parties… this is definitely a spot to keep your queer eye on if you want to stay out West to have some drinks and parteee.
Tucked above the streets around Dundas and Bathurst, the Wiggle Room is a magical escape from drab Toronto. Run by the Wiggle team (Hi Takin!), the space an an unbelievable sound system, top-notch HD projection screens, a lounge, a big bar, gender-free washrooms, and small, dark, laser-lit room if you need a moment to you and yourself or a couple close friends ;) Once called Luné, we’ve thrown a couple parties inside the space and we loved every second. This is a space for house music lovers, and good people who like to dance. No pretension, no judgement, no dress code.
Lead image for this piece was taken by Chris from Halloween at Mama’s Liquor and Lounge.