16 Black gay nightclubs and bars I really miss
by Waddie G. – The G-Listed
When I tell you that I have lived throughout the first decade of my life in the Black gay social scene, I mean that I have liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiived. One day, I will share some of my fun, bloopers and living on the edge moments through this blog or other platforms.
No matter where we in the world, the holy grail of our Black gay social scene takes place bars and nightclubs that draw a crowd of mostly Black gay men. Defined as “the Black gay clubs,” these are the venues where we Black gay men gather to fully be ourselves fully in our fashions, mannerisms, lusts and love of music, entertainment and spectacles only we could relate the best as Black gay men. Most importantly, these nightclubs and bars are the indoor sanctuaries where we can physically express our desires and inhibitions over and with other men without social judgement or threats of physical violence or ostracizing.
Over the past few years, Black gay men around the world have been hit news about the closing of our beloved establishments, one-by-one. Reasons vary from neighborhood gentrification particularly in large cities and club owners unable to keep with up with the costs of running our establishments to closing off promoting their spaces to our people because of violence and lack of financial support from the patrons and the community at-large.
When we hear of the news of the closing another nightclub we enjoyed, we ask ourselves “where can we go now” or “why we can’t we keep a space for oursleves.” For many of us, we blame racism first assuming that our beloved nightspots closed off to us specifically out of not wanting a space filled with Black gay patrons.
My first taste of the Black gay nightlife and social scene was during the fall of 1995 when I was a college student at University of Kansas. Because my same-gender attraction rapidly grew in its curiosity at that time, I had to find out whether being around other Black gay men to unleash who I am would make my life much easier to navigate once I understand whether or not I am gay. In October 2015, I traveled 50 miles away from the University of Kansas campus back to my hometown in Kansas City to a nightclub named Soakie’s in the downtown area during the day time, because I was not aware upon my first visit that the real traffic occurred at night, and was pleased to learn that I found my way into who I am – a Black gay man – and who I will identify with mostly – other Black gay men.
Since Soakie’s, I had to navigate my life as a young Black gay man on my own because I did not come into the Black gay social scene with a Black gay mentor, nor was I the person who tried to belong with a group of Black gay men to learn the ropes of what a Black gay man is and does socially. Though I never considered myself totally in the closet, since everyone in my life assumed I was gay since I was child in grade school, I was so private about most aspects of my social life that I kept my goings on in the Black gay scene to myself for many years until I officially came out of the closet in 1999. I figured the Black gay social scene, no matter where I traveled or lived, afforded me the ability to give into the burning desires that built up inside me when I spent my weekdays at work and school or with friends or family.
Because I always like to reminisce on my glory days as a young, outgoing and virile Black gay man, I want to stroll down memory lane of my favorite nightspots I enjoyed throughout my adulthood as a Black gay man that are no longer around. These establishments provided wonderful moments that I never forget. With each of the venues I mention, I will share a moment or a general reason why those sanctuaries hold special places in my heart.
Catch One (Los Angeles)
Before I traveled to LA frequently for a few years to pretend that I was there to see my mother and her relatives, I had Catch on my bucket list of places I must visit. I was not disappointed with my first visit or the few visits that followed. It was one of the few nightclubs I attended where there was a decent mix of Black gays and lesbians. Still, social spots where Black gays and lesbians co-exist are rarities.
Chi Chiz (New York)
Despite having a reputation of being a seedy spot that drew the “less-refined” Black gay men and transwomen, Chi Chiz was the best place to get your cocktail fix. I never had to worry about having a watered-down vodka drink. I also enjoyed the Monday night karaokes. Unfortunately, the Black gay social scenes today seem too uptight to incorporate activities such as karaoke within their establishments. My pretentious Harlem buddies always turned their noses up to the idea of hitting up this space.
City Lights (Jackson, MS)
I have only attended this nightclub once in 1998, but it was the first nightclub that I attended that played slow jams. Fortunately, I met a very charming man who hailed from Mississippi that I slowed dance with. Our slow dances allowed me to forget that there were more people in that nightclub than the two of us. After the club, our unbridal passion in my hotel room had us going for hours, even with Mariah Carey’s Daydream album and a couple hours of gospel radio playing in the background of our heavy lovemaking.
Hands down, Colors has been my favorite nightclub of all time. Unfortunately, I do not recall a specific moment to share that was uniquely memorable. Colors had all the ingredients of the perfect nightspot for me — the perfect deejays spinning the right music to keep the party going, friendly bartenders who made the drinks that kept people like me coming for more to empty our wallets and beautiful men — especially the door people who checked me in every week. Sigh.
Kellers (New York)
Kellers was a cool spot. Nothing memorable about that place that I can think of sharing. It was a go-to place with the friends I had at the time when I visited them when I used to live in Atlanta and Chicago.
Mars 2112 (New York)
This was my favorite New York nightspot during the mid 2000s. When I visited New York from Chicago, I had to make sure I partied at Mars 2112. I was enamored by the interior first. Also, partying among the phynest Black gay men of New York was an incentive. I remember that was where I met popular vlogger Derrick L. Briggs, of which I fanned out in my head because I followed his ADTV YouTube channel. I was proud to see a young Black gay man making us visible in cyberspace. I also met a Black gay icon, whom I once looked up to as an influence to my platform as a writer, who gave me a cold greeting when we were introduced by a mutual friend. Later, I saw his slizzard ass being lonely for the rest of the night as other Black gays, who acted as his friends in his face when we were introduced, told me about his exploits in the gym locker room while he was in a power couple relationship at that time.
Nations (Washington DC)
Nations was not known as a Black gay nightspot until Memorial Day weekend during the early 2000s, but to be able to party in a mega club space filled with Black gay men seemed like nirvana. I remember a guy from Chicago hated my guts because I always walked up to him drunk thinking he was one of my close friends because their looks were very similar during that era.
Prop House (Chicago)
Oooooooooh the Prop House. I loved the first few years of this joint. Because I hated house music and twirling men taking up the dancefloor at The Generator, I was most grateful when the Prop House opened. Looking back, I realize how discriminatory the nightclub was to men in the community who did not appear masculine or physically fit, but I did not care because I was allowed entry and got my life seemingly every weekend. These days, I would not support a nightclub that discriminates within the community. Unfortunately, it was also the venue I got into a public spat with [now] a dear friend of mine that made me hate him and the venue for a couple years.
Soakies (Kansas City)
Soakies is where my Black gay life began. There are sooooooooooooo many memories that will require a new blog post. I met wonderful people in that nightspot including the bouncer who I was too immature and spoiled rotten to date after a few weekends, my first partner-in-crime and the one who got away. Interestingly, I met three different men who drove a forest green colored Ford Explorer in that nightclub. A regular activity I did was giving a bogus name and number to guys who threw themselves upon whose interest was not mutual on my end. Back then, we did not have mobile phones, and I did not carry around a pager.
The Edge (Washington DC)
I remember meeting a military guy with whom I chatted online with for over a year. This was the late 1990s when people thought only uncool anti-social people chatted online to meet people. Look at what people do online now in 2017. I was in town from Chicago and meeting the military man was worth the wait. He was full of mmm mmm goodnees, a great elixir that helped me forget about the awful ex-lover I finally broke up with. Gosh! I wish I remembered his name now that I am thinking about him.
The Generator (Chicago)
Generator was the nightclub I wish I appreciated when it was around during its first generation of existence. I recently moved from Kansas when I first visited The Generator in 1997 and was unaware of house music genre, the nightclub’s genre of music spun by iconic deejays to the delight of hundreds of revelers. I came there with a popular exotic dancer that I briefly dated at the time. During the house music days, part of that club’s culture was that many revelers congregated outside of the club during the nightclub hours if they were not into house music, too young to be allowed in or preferred the scenery to scope out men. I enjoyed the socializing outdoors until 6am. Looking back, I wonder how the city’s police never harassed us for the years we hung out in the outdoors by the dozens. For the past decade, seemingly every outdoor gathering of Black gay men has been harassed by the Chicago police. The second generation of the famous nightclub opened after a few years of closing for renovations and failed attempt at drawing a white yuppie audience. I got so much life during that time when it became Prop House’s competition and partied like I was a Hollywood socialite.
The Delta (Washington DC) – I mistakenly called it The Mill at publishing
I only visited The Delta during the DC Black Pride celebrations I traveled to and had lots of fun in that nightclub including an all-night makeout session with a guy I barely met on the dance floor. To be young, wild and free again…
The Octagon (New York)
I really enjoyed Octagon. Though I did not have a particular memory that is worth boasting, I remember loving the music, the drinks and the ambiance.
The Palace (Atlanta)
This party staple deserves a blog post on its own because I almost always had a moment in the Palace. My first memory there was in 1999 when I enjoyed a threeway dance most of the night with a couple of Jamaican men in the soca/reggae section in the basement. There were many more memories I had in that nightclub that I will be excited to share later.
This spot was another one of my favorite party staples when I lived in Atlanta. This too deserves its own blog post of a list of stories my own exploits and conquests. One particular memory I had was reconnecting with an ole boo whom I
scandalously dated in Chicago. Our affair was sooooooooo scandalous, but meeting him again in Atlanta was much less forbidden and filled with ecstasy that night.
Traxx (Washington DC)
I loved partying in Traxx during DC Black Pride weekends. One memory I will never forget was running into a former coworker who I used to hang with in Atlanta. What was so memorable about running into him? When we were coworkers at Gap in Lenox Mall, this guy was so stuck-up and bourgeois about the Black gay social scene. I noticed him when he gave me a lap dance as one of the featured strippers at the Black Pride party. I grabbed his butt while stuffing a bunch of ones in the front of his thong only for both of us to be shocked once we noticed each after he breathed into my ear on whether I wanted to go backstage with him. I ended up going backstage only for him to beg me not to tell anyone we hung with back in Atlanta that I saw him stripping. We also enjoyed a little personal interaction to get over the awkward moment before I had to find my friends as the club was closing.
Warehouse (New York)
I only partied at the Warehouse once in 1998 and remember how much I had at the two-story nightclub like the partying happened yesterday. It was one of my favorite Black gay nightclub experiences in New York because I was treated to so many cocktails and phone numbers — none of which I connected with because the guy I came there with wanted me to himself at the end of the night. What happened after the club became much more memorable that my goings-on inside Warehouse.