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Skivies (formerly the Tool Box), Topeka, Kansas

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Skivies (formerly the Tool Box), Topeka, Kansas
photo by Andrew Collins
Practically in the eastern shadows of the Kansas State Capitol Building, which lies just a couple of blocks away, you'll find Topeka's only gay bar, Skivies (921 S. Kansas Ave., 785-234-0482), pictured here back when it was called the Tool Box. It's a low-keyed spot, drawing an even mix of women and men, most of them from the local area - and sometimes a few adventuresome souls from the nearby college town of Lawrence (home to Kansas University), although that crowd tends to flock in the other direction to Kansas City.

Highly conservative politically, the city of Topeka is infamously home of the anti-gay Westboro Church (and the hate-spewing family behind the church, led by preacher Fred Phelps). The association with Phelps has earned Topeka a somewhat harsher reputation among gays and lesbians than it deserves - there's definitely a GLBT community here, and Topeka has become steadily more gay-friendly over time (although far less so than Lawrence and, an hour away, Kansas City). Skivies is cozy and relaxed, with super-cheap drinks, a little dance floor in back, and a friendly if somewhat cliquey crowd - in this community, locals tend to know each other pretty well. If you're looking for a stand-and-model high-energy club scene, head to KC. This is more a spot for unpretentious conversation and getting to know the locals.

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