"Rumors of my death have been grossly exaggerated." This is usually a humorous saying of celebrities in response to rumors that they have died. But the same can be said of lesbian bars in Chicago.
In fact, they were decreasing in number over the past several years, and that decrease hit an all-time high during Covid. In fact, by the summer, of 2021, there was only one lesbian bar open (a wine bar called Joie de Vine), which was then bought by two black queer female women and re-named "Nobody's Darling." This marked a renaissance of sorts for queer female bars, but that renaissance has included an evolution too. Once female-exclusive, bars that are reopening after Covid are now becoming inclusive of the entire LGBTQ+ population, not just queer females. And this seems to be the trend throughout the country, as queer female bars re-open all over the country - In New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and all other large urban centers. While Nobody's Darling promotes itself as a bar for lesbians, for example, it is really a safe space for all queer residents of the city.
That said, let's have a look-see at where Chicago lesbians can spend a night with great drinks, music, and events.
1744 W. BALMORAL AVE CHICAGO IL 60640
It's right to begin with this bar as it is probably the most well-known today among the female queer community. It was a wine bar that was declining and purchased by two black lesbians who have created an amazing place especially for queer females but totally inclusive of all LGBTQ+ communities.
People can enjoy the atmosphere indoors or out, by ordering some of their signature cocktails, including the Woman King and Nobody's Mai Tao.
Anyone can book private gatherings too.
While Nobody's Darling is relatively new, it has become a major feature in the gay bar scene in Chicago, located in the East Lakeview area, near to Boystown, the famous LGBT+ community in the Chicago area.
3359 N. HALSTED St CHICAGO IL 60605
Located right in the middle of Boystown, Progress Bar is more than just a watering hole for the queer female community. It is an entire evening out experience with its cool decor, large dancing floor, DJs, and regular live performances. They also host private events.
For anyone not familiar with the Boystown neighborhood, it is the oldest gay community in the U.S., most of it on Halsted St., where you will find shops, restaurants, and a variety of bars or a club with almost any atmosphere you want. It is famous for its Legacy Walk, an outdoor LGBTQ+ history museum celebrating historical timelines and heroes of the movement.
If you have hooked up with a playmate in the Chicago area via an online lesbian dating app, there is no better place to be during Pride Month, one of the biggest celebrations in the country. Over a million people attend the festivities, and Progress Bar is a major place for drink, dancing, and celebration.
3325 N Broadway St, CHICAGO IL 60657
The Closet has been around for over 40 years and is a favorite bar for lesbians. It is located in the city rather than in Boystown, close to the Chicago Theatre district. While the patrons are still mainly queer women, the bar is now welcoming to a highly diverse crowd of LGBTQ+ people even straights.
In addition to a large dancing space, there are themed nights for Karaoke, normally on Thursday. Customers are welcome to sing songs from a particular genre or decade.
One thing to remember about The Closet - it is a cash-only club.
If you are looking for a huge party atmosphere, then you and your squeeze have found it. While it was formerly a primarily queer female spot, it has morphed into one of the most popular gay bars as it has gotten larger and larger. There are actually 7 different bars rolled into one huge space, but it is primarily now billed as a pop-karaoke gay nightclub, along with a rooftop deck.
Special event nights are planned every day of the week. For example, on Wednesdays, there is an open mic with "All Things, Taylor and Ariana, All Things Beyonce, All Things Gaga, and All Things Britney and Rihanna." Live entertainment and Drag race shows are also weekly happenings.
As far as drinking is concerned, Sidetrack is famous for its frozen cocktails and drinks that are $6 every day. Queer women will love all of the spaces in this Boystown spot.
If you are looking for an intimate and cozy lounge/nightclub experience, then Dorothy is probably your top choice in Chicago. It is actually tucked down in the basement of the Split-Rail restaurant. But don't let the cozy atmosphere fool you. There is a definite 1920s feel and a DJ. Casual is the "rule" for this retro climate. Great happy hour drink prices but they're pretty reasonable all the time. Dorothy is kind of hidden but is one of the lesbians-exclusive clubs left in Chicago.
Another mainstay nightclub in Boystown, but one that has won a host of awards for being one of the best gay bars in Chicago. It has always been open to the entire LGBTQ+ community, but lesbians make up a large percentage of its nightly population.
Eclectic musicality is the norm at Berlin - electronic, DJ tunes, and live performances. You can spend an entire night in just this one place, so bring your girl and plan to stay for the entertainment and the dancing. And the best part? If you are really into after-hours fun, it stays open until 4 am. Prices are reasonable in comparison, and there's always a large crowd if you are just looking to hook up for a night.
What a fun place. While it is actually open to anyone, it is mostly frequented by the LGBTQ+ population, and plenty of lesbians on a nightly basis. It offers music nights during the week and a DJ on the weekends when it gets really busy.
The nice thing about Big Chicks is you don't have to go somewhere else to eat. It has a great menu of "small-type" eats, but you can fill yourself up without any problem. One of its most popular offerings is its Sunday breakfast/brunch menu which includes vegetarian choices.
Come with a date, your long-term partner, or as a single looking to find other singles who just want to mingle and party. Bring cash - no cards accepted at Big Chicks.
Roscoe's is one of the longest-lasting gay bars in Boystown. But as most night spots have done, it has evolved into a fully LGBTQ+-inclusive nightclub. And along with that inclusivity have come a host of activities to suit everyone - from drag brunches, to watch parties, to dancing, to pool tables, and lots of safe spaces, indoors and out. Its bar food is reasonable and good, and the drinks are reasonably priced. Roscoe's is pretty large, and the vibe is friendly and chill.
The South Side of Chicago is widely diverse. While some sections may be unsafe, there is a lively and relatively safe nightclub scene. Jeffery Pub is one such place. It is an LGBTQ+ spot owned by African Americans and features minority (black and brown) music, dancing, and karaoke but welcomes the full diversity of the LGBTQ+ population. If you're up for reasonably priced drinks and a night of great fun, check out Jeffery's. You won't be sorry.
It's called Second Story Bar for a reason. It is literally on the second floor of a building in downtown. Second Story is a small place with a laid-back and chill atmosphere with music that meets that vibe. If you are looking for a quiet intimate place to take your girl chick, this is it. You will find a diverse LGBTQ+ crowd here, and everyone is friendly and welcoming. Drinks are pretty reasonable too - just bring cash. It does close early, so if you want to extend your night further, you'll have to look somewhere else.
2700 N Halsted St, Chicago IL
Sometimes, you just want to go upscale. Maybe it's a birthday, Valentine's Day, or a meaningful anniversary. If so, it's time for Kit Kat's Lounge, the most elegant and priciest place in Boystown.
Kit Kat's has a full dinner menu and plenty of live entertainment in the midst of an amazing ambiance. You and your squeeze will want to dress up a bit for this place, but then that's what special occasions are for. Just be ready to spend quite a bit more than other restaurants and nightclubs in Boystown. Still, you can make an entire night of it here, as it's open until 2 am.
As you've probably noted, the "L" word is probably not too common anymore in Chicago's gay bar scene. What has happened is this: the LGBTQ+ community, while widely diverse, still has a feeling of unity and camaraderie that cannot be denied and is only becoming stronger. It is only natural, then, that the nightclub scene will reflect this unity. Be your queer female self and enjoy all that this city has to offer to the entire community.
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