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15 December 2019

BEST and WORST Gay Clubs

by Shamel Jones

Flashing lights, rainbow flag, cheap drinks, a drag queen, and go-go dancer seem to be the basic requirements for a gay establishment. My name is Shamel Jones and I have spent the last five years traveling to review gay clubs. This list represents the best and worst of my reviews.

VERSE

“Club XL”

New York, New York

Without a doubt this would have been in the top 5 if it didn’t shut down in 2016. I had the chance to visit in 2015 before I joined the military. This place was epic and had a luxury hotel attached to it. Located in Manhattan you were getting the nightlife you saw on television. Drinks were pricey, but the venue itself was something I still have not seen to this day. If you got to party here you would understand!

“Nyx”

Amsterdam, Netherlands

“You’re cute. Come to the front of the line.” This was the first club I’ve experienced paper straws (before it became trendy). Major points for innovation. The restroom situation is also extremely interesting. It’s an open room for everyone with a DJ and a bar. Not very sanitary, but very interesting. The place is dark with neon paint everywhere. I know it's Amsterdam, but the club smelled nothing like marijuana which took me by surprise. No need to speak Dutch; English is very common.

“Club Blitz” Munich, Germany

Authentic German experience!  This club had a mysterious and magical feel to it. Something you would see on Blade or Euphoria. No photos were allowed so the bouncer placed stickers over our cameras upon entry. The music was very electronic. It was so much going on everywhere.  I will keep the details to myself because it is something you have to experience on your own. I was there 12am to 6am just dancing! This felt less like a gay club and more like an underground dubstep party. That’s what made it stand out.

“Missie B’s” Kansas City, Missouri

I stopped here December 2018 on my Club Tour Winter Road trip on a Wednesday! It’s a small bar with the appearance a bit dated, but it gave you small town close community vibes. Everyone was social and nice. Not a peep of shade. There is a drag theater inside with multiple events daily. I had the chance to experience Drag Family Feud (it was fucking amazing). Everyone was so authentic and the drinks were inexpensive with a 2 for 1 special. The bartender took time to talk to me and figure out which drink best suited my personality.

“Tracks” Denver, Colorado

Colorado was my stomping ground for a year so I was here frequently. My favorite thing about this place is the interaction with the guest. Always a quality event with great host. Their Rupaul Drag Race watch parties are always both fun and interesting. I hold them to a high standard when it comes to American clubs. What made them lose points are the DJs constantly not being hip to new/popular music. My friends and I had to constantly request new songs and put the DJ on. That’s not a good thing! Outside of that this place is always a good time.

These Honorable Mentions are amazing venues, but not on the level of the tops:

Bottoms

Represent the WORST clubs I reviewed over the last 5 years:

   BORING! I feel like this is a bar posing as a club. It looks like the set of the 90s sitcom “Cheers”. It was filled with nothing but caucasian women which isn’t a good look for a gay establishment. It personally makes me feel like we are their entertainment and amusement. The music was simply a playlist and the bartenders weren’t very good at managing customers at the bar. I waited to receive a poorly mixed drink. Very cliche gay bar and the overall experience was forgettable. Waiting in the entrance line cutting up with the locals was much more entertaining than actually being inside. A poor representation of Charleston and a place I would never return to. It lacked culture and fun.

#5 “Dudley’s” Charleston, South Carolina

    If you’re going to name your establishment “NY.Club” then it needs to be on the level of NEW YORK. This place was the exact opposite. Small dance floor. Almost empty on a Friday night. And thirsty gays trying to get you into the dark room (which is actually common in some areas of Europe). Drinks were ehh. I wasted an Uber XL dramatic appearance. (Someone is reading this like that sounds exactly like a New York club to me.) Just hearing the name I expected so much more. Change the name and it will be your basic hole in the wall gay club. Munich is a major city in Germany. When you Google gay clubs this is the first place that pops up. It’s setting a terrible first impression. No drag queens were even present, but there was a rainbow flag, flashing lights, and wood structure covered in black paint. The restroom was disgusting! Never again Munich.

#4 "NY.Club"
Munich, Germany
 

   Yes, that’s the name. Homo Hill is an actual hill in an alleyway. I understand that being gay in Asian culture is considered a taboo. The significance of this place is important, but the execution is OFF. Its about 5 different gay bars side by side in an alley. I was so afraid walking up the alley because of how dark it was and the trash smell made it worse. You go up just a block more and you’re in the red light district. I recommend all these small bars combine to just make one major spot. It would do much more justice. I was so disappointed in Seoul because of the reputation of nightlife. You’re better off going to Thursday Party and playing beer pong if you want more fun. What would really turn it if they just made a speakeasy. The mystery would be a good narrative and a safer environment.

#3 “Homo Hill” Seoul, South Korea

As a military man each duty station I have been to has a local LGBT establishment the gay soldiers call home and cut up. Between Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airbase; soldiers HATE Club One and I understand why. Savannah is a very lit place with an open container policy and constant tourist. Club One is always EMPTY. Their clientele tends to be bridal parties on a tour with a Drag Show as their first form of entertainment. The Drag Show is alright if you haven’t been to a bigger production like Tracks in Denver or Play/Tribe in Nashville. Club One is a dated hole in the wall gay club with a constantly empty dance floor. It’s located downtown where it doesn’t compare to the other bars/clubs in walking distance. You’re much better off turning up a Tree House. (Sorry Chi Chi!)

#2 "Club One"
Savannah, Georgia

 “Partying in Paris, you bitches is embarrassed” - Nicki Minaj. Security having to buzz you in was about the most exciting thing going on here. While you wait to get inside you’re embarrassed by people trying to sell you cocaine. You would think security would get rid of them. Regardless you go inside to a small venue and a basement. Upstairs is very small with everyone dancing or watching a gogo dancer take a shower. Downstairs has more of a lounge feel to it. For this to be Paris it was a huge disappointment.The only reason you would go here is simply for partying in Paris bragging rights. Everything was painted black complimented by flashing lights. An alarm would sound every time the shower would turn on for the dancer behind the partition. I’ve seen this at Charlies in Denver, but they pulled it off much better. Overall the experience were boring, overpriced drinks were garbage, and the venue is just a hole in the wall bar being carried by the fact it’s in Paris.

#1 "Raidd"
Paris, France

Tops

Represent the BEST clubs and my most memorable experiences:

For starters this venue is home to extremely talented drag queens. They provide quality shows on the regular. Outside of that the venue is very modern. To your surprise when you exit the drag area to the dance floor though double doors you get a COMPLETELY different experience. The contrast between the drag area and dance floor make it seem like you're in a different place. Play is in the right direction for keeping things up to date and changing with the time. In addition right next door is Tribe a gay bar you can pre-game and relax. You're getting a 2-for-1 honestly. This place is far from the stereotype country experience you get from visiting Nashville. 

#5 "Play"
Nashville, Tennessee

Hands down one of the best experiences of my club reviews. Right next door the club has branched out to a restaurant with great food. The restrooms are also gender neutral. Usually venues will have male/female restrooms that everyone just ignores, but the gender neutral restrooms really stood out. The staff took me on a tour of the facility and even showed the additions being added that were currently under construction. Outside of the innovation and professionalism the club experience was AMAZING. Everyone was dancing having a great time. The drinks KEPT coming. This place is filled with Latino men who know how to have a good time. The spiral hallway is also a great photo-op. The location is also on a main strip downtown. It’s nice to see this place continue to grow and expand. I wonder what they will do next.

#4 “Effex”
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Fucking exclusive! The bouncer at the door has to decide if they want you inside or not; so from the start you’re not guaranteed entry. This club feels like a hidden place magical creatures party in secret. The fire pit in the back is a very nice touch for a break and social interactions. Everyone was from all over the world. The rooms are so different and the music is hypnotizing. The party never stops either. I’m not sure if this place even closes. The esthetic was both original and organic. Clubbing here is a MUST. I won’t say much more because I want you to experience it for yourself.  

#3 “Cocktail D’amore” Berlin, Germany

Club. Motel. Pool. Sex Shop. Bear Bar (seperate). BBQ. Lake. Drag Show. Without a doubt this is probably the best gay club in the United States. It is so much going on at once. A little of everything for EVERYBODY. The venue has so much nostalgia and theme. Each room in the club has different music. The club is surrounded by a motel. A bear bar is inside the motel as well as a sex toy shop. Tired of clubbing you can sit your feet in the pool or walk around the lake. After the club grab from fresh bbq at the entrance. You name it and Parliament House has it. I’ve been there four times this year

#2 “Parliament House”
Orlando, Florida

   Think pride block party combined with a Todrick Hall concert and you have somewhat of a concept for Gay Village. The venue is outside and spans a couple blocks like an actual village. Multiple stages, constant quality performances, transitions, and everything else in-between. I legit thought I was at pride and this was an everyday thing. Words can not even describe how amazing this experience was. The production and performances never stopped. No other club I have ever been to in 5 years gay or straight is touching Gay Village. The space is so big every section had something different. There was even live karaoke in a section. Each stage had a light up dance floor with their own DJ and stage. The performers would make their way to different stages. There were about 6 or 7 bars. I have to make it a mission to return here. I could only image the stories people have of their experiences.

#1 "Gay Village"
Rome,Italy

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