First, Let’s Meet Up on the LES for a Drink
The eastern end of Canal Street, named Dimes Square after the restaurant that has for some time now fed stylish people who don’t eat all that much, has become a sprawling sidewalk cocktail resort. Clandestino (35 Canal St.) is the bar at its center — somewhere you can spot Caroline Calloway, Ella Emhoff, or that actor whose name you can’t quite remember.
If Clando is full (and it likely is), wander further into the LES. Forgtmenot (138 Division St.), 169 Bar (169 East Broadway), Dr. Clark (104 Bayard St.), Mr. Fong’s (40 Market St.), Attaboy (134 Eldridge St.), and Kind Regards (152 Ludlow St.) are all within stumbling distance, full of people who are good-looking even if you aren’t yet drunk, and great places to have a predinner drink.
If you’re afraid to go north of Houston but want to soar above the teeming street-level drunks, try Make Believe (190 Allen St.) on the seventh floor of the Sixty LES hotel.
Keep walking northwest and you’ll come to Short Stories (355 Bowery), which will surely be filled with microinfluencers and implausibly of-age wealthy suburban kids partying hard.
If that’s too potentially basic for you, try Beverly’s (5 Eldridge St.), which just reopened in Chinatown this spring after becoming a popular hey-there’s-art-on-the-walls spot on the Lower East Side.
If you want to take advantage of the temporary lull in tourism to enjoy a view that is often Euro-clotted, mosey a bit west to the rooftop bar at the Public Hotel (215 Chrystie St.).
Further west still is Happy Be (26 Cortlandt Alley), a rooftop bar at the Walker Hotel that feels like downtown L.A.
Then Let’s Go Dancing. God, We Miss Dancing.
Elsewhere (599 Johnson Ave., East Williamsburg) is a rooftop with DJs in a very industrial zone.
Bossa Nova Civic Club (1271 Myrtle Ave., Bushwick) is a high-energy spot that smells like patchouli, yerba mate, and tequila.
During the day, Cafe Erzulie (894 Broadway, Bed-Stuy) is a Haitian cafe and flower shop. At night, Brooklyn’s Black queer scene pushes the tables aside and takes to the dance floor.
Take an Uber to Queens for Trans-Pecos (16-09 Weirfield St., Ridgewood), a very DIY self-described “avant music venue.” All ages are welcome on weekends.
3 Dollar Bill (260 Meserole St., East Williamsburg) is a sweaty, smelly, techno-heavy warehouse party space with a huge dance floor and an anything-goes restroom.
The Q NYC (795 Eighth Ave.) is coming soon: a multilevel club from Frankie Sharp (the gay behind Westgay) and Jake Shears.
Four Nabe-Specific Queer Crawls
1. In Williamsburg, the Rosemont (63 Montrose Ave.) is a reliably busy bar with a quality drag scene, a sticky dance floor, and really stiff well drinks. You can finally have the chance to sing “Rain on Me.” Meet whoever you meet there at Metropolitan (559 Lorimer St.) the next night.
2. In Bushwick, there’s Happyfun Hideaway (1211 Myrtle Ave.), a tiki-themed bar where you’ll find mullets and Telfar bags galore. It has a very popular backyard and is great for a weeknight. If you’re there into the early morning, don’t miss the cruisy late-night counter-service taco spot next door. Down the street from Happyfun is Mood Ring (1260 Myrtle Ave.), an astrology-themed bar with a special cocktail for each zodiac sign. The dance floor smells like poppers and joy, and the drinks are surprisingly delicious.
3. If you’re in the West Village, there are the old reliables: Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.), which, after a revamp, is leaning into a wine-and-cocktails-and-charcuterie-board vibe; the Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), where you can meet queer women of all ages; and, of course, Julius’ (159 W. 10th St.), where the jolly local elderqueers in rent-stabilized apartments mix with younger gays paying market rent who are sick of the “scene.”
4. In the East Village, there’s Alan Cumming’s Club Cumming (505 E. 6th St.), which is again hosting burlesque and variety shows. Its Wednesday comedy roundup is hosted by the very funny, close-to-canceled comedian Cat Cohen. A few blocks up is the Phoenix (447 E. 13th St.), a long-standing fabulousness-free zone only a block away from the Avenue A entrance to the L train.
Broke? Let’s Hit a Dive Bar.
In Williamsburg, try Rocka Rolla (486 Metropolitan Ave.) and Skinny Dennis (152 Metropolitan Ave.), which share an owner. The former plays hard rock and serves drinks in gigantic goblets; the latter does its best to pretend to be an L-train honky-tonk. They both have a delicious, boozy frozen coffee drink and music that your dad probably likes.
In Bed-Stuy, there’s the seedy, dark, and low-ceilinged Tip-Top Bar & Grill (432 Franklin Ave.) and, nearby, Do or Dive (1108 Bedford Ave.). If you want to spend more on a cocktail, next door is the more gentrified Dynaco (1112 Bedford Ave.).
In Bushwick, there’s Birdy’s (1215 Myrtle Ave.), the kind of dive bar where one goes to cry after a breakup. There are a few pinball machines and a photo booth in the back.
If You Don’t Mind Being Hungover on Monday: Some Going-Out-on-Sunday Options
Nowadays (56-06 Cooper Ave., Ridgewood) is a giant party space with booze trucks that’s rather busy on weekends, especially for its “Mister Sunday” party.
If you would rather celebrate your Sunday by moping, Paul’s Casablanca (305 Spring St.), a Moroccan-themed bar by Paul Sevigny, has just restarted its Smiths-themed Sundays.
For a quieter Sunday, try the Lot Radio (17 Nassau Ave.) in Greenpoint: a tiny shack and outdoor space sitting in the triangular median of three streets. It’s right across from McCarren Park and close to several great brunch spots, meaning you can get drunk before or after you eat.
The Jacuzzi may not be open, but the Standard, High Line’s club space, Le Bain (848 Washington St.), has kept busy with rotating DJs (the hotel’s better bar, No Bar, at the Standard East Village, is still shut down).
If All Your Friends Live in Bushwick Anyway …
Named after a Cocteau Twins song, Heaven or Las Vegas (4 Irving Ave.) offers Mood Ring’s same signature cocktails in addition to karaoke. It opened weeks before the pandemic began and promises to be a hot spot to revive this summer.
Sometimes all you want to do is drink with a view, and Honey’s (93 Scott Ave.), a cocktail bar with homemade meads and a killer seawater martini, has one of the better rooftops in Brooklyn.
Jupiter Disco (1237 Flushing Ave.) is tiny, very weird, and outer-space themed.
Pearl’s Social & Billy Club (40 St. Nicholas Ave.) has the best frozen drinks in the neighborhood. Left Hand Path (89 Wyckoff Ave.), around the corner, has the best cocktails. Cool off there after dancing at House of Yes (2 Wyckoff Ave.) — just two blocks away.
With cheaper drinks than most anywhere else, pandemic fave Carmelo’s (1544 Dekalb Ave.) will only get busier.
Farewell Bar (143 Troutman St.) is a tiki-themed cocktail bar–crêperie.
You Can Also Follow These Peripatetic Parties on IG
Trans and nonbinary and POC-centric, a good reprieve from white queer nightlife.
Also a party series for QTPOC but more for women and femmes.
A bear-friendly gay sex party that takes place in basements across Brooklyn. Be prepared to check your clothes at the door.
A party that made a name for itself evoking the lost, very chic, cosmopolitan scene of 1970s Tehran. This summer, it’s expanding to block parties, live music, and movie screenings.
This Brooklyn DJ (and friend of Remy Duran) hosts poppy-fun parties across the city (including on boats!). Get ready to sweat, get sweated on, dance until your feet hurt, and have bouts of vaguely missing social distancing.
Among the offerings of long-standing nightlife service provider Susanne Bartsch is a new series this summer called “NEW YORK, NEW YORK!” It will be a weekly Friday-night “cabaret extravaganza” at the former Diamond Horseshoe (235 W. 46th St.), now named Sony Hall (which does sort of take the fun out of it).