Many think our options are limited to a handful of uptight Mount Vernon clubs, which seem to cater more and more to weekend warriors who wear T-shirts emblazoned with the name of the store where they were purchased. Worse, the number of weird little gay dive bars that feel both idiosyncratic and quintessentially Baltimore dwindles every year. In 2011, we lost the Phoenix, that cheap, dirty little spot on Biddle Street where K-pop dance parties and down-low pool sharks coexisted in drunken bliss. In 2012, The Baltimore Eagle, the legendary leather bar where S&M daddies and trans sex workers rubbed shoulders (and other body parts), sold to a developer and has been “closed for renovations” ever since, with no set reopening date. In recent years, the city’s rowdy lesbian bars have been hit even harder: Gallagher’s, Coconuts, and Port in a Storm have all shuttered, seemingly reducing lesbian nightlife in Baltimore to an occasional potluck somewhere in Lauraville.
Mount Vernon may feel like the definitive gayborhood, but decades ago there were thriving queer enclaves scattered across the city, from Waverly to the west side of downtown and even Southeast Baltimore. Today, there are just a handful of neighborhood gay bars that hold down the fort outside of the increasingly homogenous center. Thankfully, they’re all pretty weird. I’m a big fan of reminding myself that Baltimore is a much bigger city than it feels, and going on an MTA adventure to outlying gay dive bars is the perfect way to meet new people and score some cheap booze.
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