Rochester's Gay Bar Scene

Photography by Diana Spencer

Disclaimer: Do not drink or try to purchase alcohol if you are under 21 years old. All bars mentioned require you to be 21 and older with valid ID unless directly specified.

It’s no secret that Rochester, New York is one of the most socially progressive cities in the United States.

From helping forge women's rights to leading African American equality efforts, it’s no wonder that Rochester is also prominent in the LGBTQ+ community.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic is winding down and more people are going back to socializing with others again, many people want to join the LGBTQ+ gay bar community, but don’t know where to start.

Bachelor Forum

More commonly referred to as just “The Forum,” Bachelor Forum is a staple of Rochester’s gay bar scene.

Opened in 1973, the Bachelor Forum is Rochester’s oldest gay bar to date.

Passing through the city, the bar is very hard to miss with interlocking same sex symbols pointed directly at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and University Avenue.

The Forum has drink specials every day listed on their website, as well as specialty nights such as “leather nights” or karaoke.

As with its classic history, it also has classic guests. Most of the patrons, especially on weekdays, are older gay men who are familiars in the Rochester gay bar scene.

While this is certainly not a bad bar by any means, if you’re a college student going alone on a weeknight, you might not feel like you fit in as much here.

Lux Lounge

Located on 666 South Ave., Lux Lounge definitely stands out as a vibrant and ‘trippy’ bar with tons of artwork lining the inside and outside walls, as well as party lights and a twister board on the floor. The bar differentiates itself by having more of a bit of a ‘punk’ vibe than the rest.

If the aesthetic becomes too much, Lux Lounge has a back porch with a hammock and a fire pit in order to relax.

Ed Popil was a contestant on the seventh season of "Ru Paul’s Drag Race," and is more commonly known as his drag persona, Mrs. Kasha Davis. He talks about his experience with Lux Lounge. 

“Lux is an ‘everybody’ bar. It makes me smile,” he said.

Lux Lounge has also hosted “What the Frock?! Fridays”, a monthly drag performance starring KiKi BananaHammock, Veronica Lace and season six "Ru Paul’s Drag Race" contestant Darienne Lake.

Lux Lounge was also the winner of two awards in the CITY Newspaper’s Best Of Rochester contest: “Best Bar to Drink Alone” and “Best Bouncer.”

Avenue Pub

Driving down Monroe Avenue, you may not even notice this bar is a gay bar from first glance.

Opened in 1975, the Avenue Pub took 73rd place in Yelp’s Top 100 LGBTQ+ bars in the United States.

This bar looks like any normal pub, but with LGBTQ+ décor.

No matter what review site you go to, almost every comment swears by how good the food is.

If you are looking for a gender and sexuality safe space while also wanting that classic bar feel, Avenue Pub would be the place for you.

140 Alex Bar and Grill

When listing off the most known gay bars in Rochester, not many people mention 140 Alex Bar and Grill.

However, with drag shows multiple times a week, cheap drinks, and a second floor with a dance stage, it certainly deserves to be in the conversation.

Weekdays tend to have a lower turnout than most of the other gay bars, but the patrons and bartenders were the most friendly and conversational out of all of the bars I visited.

I had an hour long conversation with a transgender woman in her 50’s who had recently come out, and that day was her first time visiting the gay bars in Rochester.

140 Alex Bar and Grill, located at 140 Alexander Street, is a hidden gem in Rochester’s gay bar scene.

The Regulars

For a long time in Rochester’s history, this was the main list of gay bars in Rochester.

There used to be a nightclub called “TiLT”, but it closed down on Aug. 8th, 2018.

David Chappius is more commonly known under his drag name, DeeDee Dubois. He described his experience with TiLT and it's management. 

“I worked at TiLT and it was owned by a straight guy,” he said. “It was the biggest place for the LGBT community, but at the end of the day, his profits, his goals had nothing to do with the community he was serving.”

 "His goals had nothing to do with the community he was serving."

Popil described TiLT as “a straight place trying to have a gay night.”

All of the bars tried to do their own separate thing, and with it came their own crowd.

To put it simply: Bachelor Forum attracted the older gay men, 140 Alex was more of a lesbian bar and Lux Lounge was for the everyday bar patron. These labels remained relatively consistent until November 2019 when a new face emerged onto the scene.

A New Challenger Approaches!

No true listing of gay bars in Rochester would be complete without ROAR.

ROAR came out of the gates swinging. In the span of two years, even while battling a worldwide pandemic, they have become Rochester’s most famous and most popular gay bar and dance club.

From allowing in 18-20 year olds, to having drag shows multiple times a week and events like Bingo and Trivia night, ROAR has so much to offer that little to no other gay bars do.

As co-owner of ROAR, Chappius is proud of what he has done.

“I think the reason that we’re successful is because we actually care about the community we service,” he said. “The community has been receptive, and we made it.”

“The community has been receptive, and we made it.”

ROAR has won several awards, includingCITYNewspaper’s Best Of Rochester's “Best Karaoke”, “Best LGBTQ Bar”, and “Best Place to Go Dancing”.

Every single one of Rochester’s gay bars are rich with history.

If you are looking to join the Rochester gay bar or nightlife scene, there are many different options to choose from.

No matter where you go, you will find people who are looking for that same kind of connection that they have been missing for the past two years.