The best gay bars in St. Louis

The best gay bars in St. Louis

Melding the ‘tell it like it is’ philosophy of the American Midwest with an overall atmosphere that’s more akin to the warmth and hospitality of the southern states of the union, the residents of St Louis in Missouri certainly know how to let their hair down, aided no doubt by some of the laxest laws on alcohol sales and consumption anywhere in the US. Sitting on the west bank of ‘Ol’ Man River’ – the mighty Mississippi – the city is closely linked to the music of blues, ragtime, and jazz, with everyone from Chuck Berry to Tina Turner having cut their teeth on the local circuit. What’s more, the last decade has seen a huge shift in public opinion to the support of same-sex couples despite ‘The Lou’ sitting within America’s conservative-minded Bible Belt.

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Photo: Wil Stewart

Photo: Wil Stewart

Many of the top gay bars St Louis can boast are located in and around the city’s Grove district on Manchester Avenue, which runs between Forest Park, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Midtown. The go-to drinking spot for LGBT+ locals, the Just John Club manages to maintain the laid back feel of a small-town tavern. Though its sports bar-style interior may disappoint some for its ordinariness (at least until the lights go down and the dancing begins), JuJo’s has a large and enticing exterior terrace, alongside a nightly roster of drinks specials and live music events that continues to make it one of the leading gay St Louis nightspots. Another gently-ageing established Grove hand is Attitudes Nightclub, an everybody’s welcome kaleidoscope of carefree gay, straight, and trans beautiful people determined to have a great time and party until they drop or the lights get turned back up, whichever happens first. The main vibe of its dark and glitzy interior is of dance club with a thudding bass, though there are some plush leather sofas and a platform above the dance floor that act as chill-out spaces, and lively drag shows on the stage area most weekends.

Photo: Michael Fenton

Photo: Michael Fenton

Photo: Felipe Ponce

Photo: Felipe Ponce

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This traditional ‘man’s’ bar has a faithful multi-generational clientele that ensure the pool table is in constant use

The nearby Rehab Bar & Grill, on the corner of Manchester Avenue and South Sarah Street, is one of the first (or last) gay St Louis bars that comprise the Grove district, depending on your direction of travel. Though a little harsher on the wallet than some of the other gay bars in St Louis, Rehab is still worth dropping by thanks to the amical bunch of guys behind the bar and the surprisingly mixed crowd of drinkers in front of it given it’s known as a rainbow flag-waving gay bar. A few hundred metres back east towards Midtown, JJ’s Clubhouse & Bar dates back some twenty years and probably hasn’t changed its décor since, but don’t let that put you off this all-American bear and leather club. This traditional ‘man’s’ bar has a faithful multi-generational clientele that ensure the pool table is in constant use while the large ceiling-mounted televisions screen live sports. Come the weekend, there’s the added bonus of the backroom club, complete with strobe lighting and live DJs.

Photo: Naitian Tony Wang

Photo: Naitian Tony Wang

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Slightly further south, in the growing gay community of the historic blues-infused Soulard neighbourhood, Bastille is a gay bar with a relaxed and bohemian décor that neatly echoes the general ambience and makes it very welcoming to out of towners. Carefully balancing the tightrope between upmarket and brash, the slightly older clientele at Bastille are more interested in getting some good food down them – from the menu of bar favourites – and playing a couple of games of darts with their pals then what you might (or might not) be wearing, as demonstrated by the early opening in time for lunch and comparatively early closing time of 1.30 am. Inside, there’s a beautiful bar top and plenty to catch the eye amid the barbie dolls and wall art, while there’s also a good number of places to sit in the open-air both out front and in the back garden. Between JJ’s Clubhouse and Bastille, on the border between the neighbourhoods of Fox Park and McKinley Heights at 2280 South Jefferson Avenue, sits the French-inspired chateau-like corner plot of Keypers Piano Bar. Located in a largely residential neighbourhood, Keypers is first and foremost a local bar, albeit one largely frequented by gay men of a certain age. It’s a place to chat (and of course, sing) beneath the crystal chandeliers, rather than dance, with a quick-fingered pianist very literally hitting all the right notes on the bar’s piano around 5 pm on Fridays (to get happy hour off with a bang) and 9 pm other nights of the week.

Photo: Briana Tozour

Photo: Briana Tozour

Photo: Taylor

Photo: Taylor

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