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Columbus Gay Guide

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Columbus Gay Bar Guide
Columbus Gay Guide

Union Cafe, a popular gay nightspot and restaurant in the hip Short North neighborhood

photo by Andrew Collins

Top Columbus Gay Bars and Nightclubs

As gay nightlife goes, Columbus stands for having so many gay bars, and also for its wealth of attractive, smartly designed venues - places with clear-glass windows, stylish decor, and popularity with both gays and straights. Some of the top gay establishments town include Axis Nightclub, Wall Street (one of the most popular lesbian clubs in the country), Union Cafe, and Club Diversity.

In downtown Columbus, fairly close to the Short North, Wall Street Nightclub (144 N. Wall St., 614-464-2800) deserves bragging rights as one of the most dynamic, successful, and inviting lesbian clubs in the nation - the owners also operate the festive Aqua on Duval club in Key West. This spacious club, which also has a very popular "boys night out" on Wednesdays, has great DJs, live comedy shows, and different music programming depending on the night (country followed by hip-hop on Thursdays, house and dance classics on Fridays and Saturdays, and female and male drag cabaret on Sundays.

In the trendy Short North neighborhood, Axis (775 N. High St., in back, 614-291-4008) is the largest gay dance club in the city and caters to an predictably young and pretty crowd. You can get some fresh air on the enclosed patio, reached through a side door. It's owned by the same team behind Union Cafe (782 N. High St., 614-421-2233), the handsome video bar and restaurant across the street. Union Cafe has z more mixed crowd (gay and straight, more diverse in age) than Axis, and on warm nights it's a bustling and fun spot to dine or drink on the patio. Reasonably priced contemporary American pub food is served, and there's an extensive cocktail list. A few blocks down High Street, the restaurant Level (700 N. High St., 614-754-7111) is also a gay-popular lounge, serving a wide range of colorful cocktails and pumping out dance music. Broadway Sundays draw fans of musicals.

Just a few blocks east of the Short North in Italian Village, Exile (893 N. 4th St., 614-299-0069) is one of the Midwest's most popular gay leather bars, set in a redbrick building with large, dark windows. "Best ass" contests, the first Saturday of each month, draw big crowds. As with many leather-oriented bars these days, Exile is more about the vibe than a strict dress code, although leather, uniforms, and other such gear are quite welcome.

Mixed Venues, Trendy Lounges, and Hipster Bars

Mixed gay-straight spots in the Short North include the student favorite CIRCUS! (1227 N. Nigh St., 614-421-2998); and a cool little joint called Local Bar (913 N. High St., 614-670-8958), which has a fine beer selection, lots and lots of games (pool, arcade games, etc.), and a quirky and eclectic crowd. Nearby and similar weird and fun, Skully's Music-Diner (1151 N. High St., 614-291-8856) is both a live-music bar and a casual diner. Its rep is as something of a straight pick-up bar, but it draws plenty of "family," too, depending on the night.

Near German Village in the city's Merion Village section, friendly and fun Cavan Irish Pub (1409 S. High St., 614-725-5502) pulls in a good mix of homos and heteros and serves a selection of first-rate craft beers on tap. It's a great spot for happy hour, whether on your own or with a group of friends. A few blocks north in the Brewery District, Club Diversity (863 S. High St., 614-224-4050) has a similarly mixed venue that lives up to its name, drawing a great mix of folks for cocktails, cabaret and other performances in the theater on-site, and socializing on the lovely garden patio in back. Inside you'll find several festive rooms, and a crowd and staff that's among the friendliest in town.

A lively hipster-favored lounge, music club, and source of first-rate Japanese and other Asian bar treats in the Brewery District, trendy Double Happiness (482 S. Front St., 614-220-5558) is a great place for late-night noshing, and enjoying some exceptionally well-crafted cocktails. It's right by fun and highly original live-performance and sketch-comedy venue Shadowbox (503 S. Front St., 614-416-7625), one of the best places in town to watch a concert or show.

Columbus Gay Neighborhood Bars

In downtown Columbus, Slammers (202 E. Long St., 614-221-8880) is an easy-going, friendly bar with a mostly (but by no means exclusively) lesbian following - it's popular with women early in the evening, before many of them head nearby to Wall Street nightclub. Slammers is both a pub and a pizza joint, making a good place to fill up before further partying, too. There's a good-size patio, a pool table, and very well-priced drinks.

At the north end of the city, the laid-back, mixed male-female bar Club 20 (20 E. Duncan St., 614-261-9111) is a longtime favorite neighborhood hangout near the campus of OSU, in the diverse Clintonville district. One strong attribute here is the rockin' jukebox - the staff is lots of fun, too.

Other friendly neighborhood bars in Columbus that cater to the gay community include Inn Rehab (627 Greenlawn Ave., 614-754-7326), which is southwest of downtown in Merion Village and has its own volleyball court and quite massive patio, plus a nightly menu of bar food; AWOL (49 Parsons Ave., 614-621-8779), with its military-gear theme, fun drag shows, popular karaoke, and a location on east side of downtown; Southbend Tavern (126 E. Moler St., 614-444-3386), another standby in Merion Village, with pool, a show stage, and mostly over-50 crowd; and the dive-y Tremont Lounge (708 S. High St., 614-444-2041), which regulars laud for its happy hour deals - it's on the edge of German Village.

Columbus Gay Bathhouses

The city's most popular gay bathhouse, Club Columbus (795 W. 5th Ave., 614-291-0049), a 24-hour facility just northwest of the Short North and just south of the campus of Ohio State University. It's a large, clean club with plenty of secure parking, on a busy and safe road. Club Columbus is part of the "Club" group of gay bathhouses that includes Club Indianapolis, Club Fort Lauderdale, and others in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Orlando, and St. Louis. During the warmer months, you can relax by the heated outdoor pool and in a garden gazebo. The other noted gay bathhouse in town is H2O Spa (1567 E. Livingston Ave., 614-317-4844), which is a short drive east of downtown in the space formerly occupied by Flex bathhouse. Set inside a former Art Deco theater, this expansive space is popular with the leather crowd, and has quite extensive facilities: steam and dry saunas, video lounge, 15-dude hot tub, overnight rooms, and more.

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