Since the dawn of the dance remix, Minneapolis has managed to sustain a gay bar culture as vibrant and multifaceted as the people who frequent them. While a diverse crowd may populate each venue, it is the character of the special events and programming that distinguishes each bar as what could be a house of twink or muscle-daddy domain.
Despite being two decades past its titular signature, the Gay 90’s has remained a stronghold of the downtown gay bar scene since opening in the ’50s, branding itself as “the premier bar for everyone.”
“It’s extremely gay- and straight-friendly with a very welcoming atmosphere,” entertainment manager Bobby Matthews said.
Laying claim as the only bar with a drag show lounge, the 90’s drag queendom is reasserted through its shows every Tuesday through Sunday and the ever-popular “La Femme” show on weekends. It was also the runway where the career of Bebe, first season winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” first took off.
Additional signature 90’s events include a foam party on the third Friday of every month and 18+ nights Wednesdays, Sundays and the third weekend of each month.
If all the gay bars were a group of friends, Jetset would be the one who never needs their hair held back after a long night out.
“The crowd here is pretty hip, young and attractive,” seven- year bartender Alex Waltenberg said. With a nod from the City Pages as the “Best Gay Bar” two years in a row, Jetset has earned a reputation with its creative drinks and refined atmosphere. Jetset’s low-key style attracts a diverse crowd.
“[The crowd] is gay, straight, whatever,” Waltenberg said.
Hosting 18+ nights every Friday, Jetset is open to club kids who can still plan on getting loose. As Waltenberg intimated, “it’s upscale, but not too serious.”
The Saloon is a multi-chambered, low-lit hotspot that is well known for its shower platform, an elevated bathing enclosure for dancers in the buff to show their stuff. On Sundays, the on-stage shower is opened to any 18+ amateur to romance onlookers with a seductive bathing routine and compete for a $200 grand prize. The Saloon’s bi-weekly 18+ nights in tandem with a cheap cover helps bolster its status as the gateway bar for the younger crowd.
Billing itself as “The premier masculine men’s bar,” the Eagle and its subsidiary club, the Bolt Underground, host such events as an Underwear Night — with complimentary clothes check — and Leather Night, where the dress code is also suitably enforced.
Though the scene at both clubs is casual most nights, Bolt Underground has the distinction of hosting a monthly Bear gathering the last Saturday of every month. Cubs and other members of the under-21 crowd can break into the field with the Bolt Underground’s 18+ nights each Thursday.
Whether going out should be a drag, feature a shower that’ll leave one a little dirtier than presumed, or someone may simply be into leather, any day of the week is a fine one to come out — though ideally it would be on the weekend. With a twink and a smile, all otter go and bear it all at any of one of Minneapolis’ finest gay bars.