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Richmond Virginia Gay Bars and Nightlife Guide

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Richmond Virginia Gay Bars and Nightlife Guide

Barcode, one of downtown Richmond's top gay bars.

photo by Andrew Collins
Although it's not the largest city in Virginia, the historic capital Richmond does have a population of over 200,000, and a metro population of more than 1.2 million. A prosperous business and government hub with a wealth of exceptional museums, several hip neighborhoods for retail and dining, and a growing GLBT population, this lively city on the James River has a handful of popular gay bars as well as a few mainstream spots with very strong followings in the community.

There's no specific gay neighborhood in Richmond, although funky Carytown is the area where you're most likely to bump into fellow GLBT folks while shopping, dining, or bar-hopping. As you continue east, through The Fan and Downtown, you'll find some of the city's top gay clubs. And although the bustling entertainment areas known as the River District, Shockoe Slip, and Shockoe Bottom also have quite a few noteworthy bars and restaurants, they're more hetero in terms of nightlife.

The quite popular downtown establishment Godfrey's (308 E. Grace St., 804-648-3957) is both a gay nightclub and restaurant, and it's one of the top venues in the state among clubbers, students from the area's many colleges, and other social butterflies. Godfrey's puts on a fun, dishy drag brunch on at 11 on Sundays and also hosts several noted weekly parties (Freaky Fridays, College Hump Nights, drag dinner shows, and so on). The crowd is a catch-all of the gay community, very mixed racially and welcoming toward men and women of all ages. And the staff is quite friendly. One half of the space is a dance floor, with the other section a less noisy bar and restaurant.

Just a couple of blocks east of Godfrey's, the cheerful gay lounge and restaurant Barcode (6 E. Grace St., 804-648-2040) draws plenty of the same revelers. This convivial spot with a long bar and a dining area with booths and tables is a fun spot for karaoke on Sundays, martini madness after work on Thursdays, and general conversation, light cruising, and mingling. It tends to be more of an "early in the evening" hangout than Godfrey's. Both bars are close to city's convention center and near many downtown hotels and attractions.

A bit west of downtown, between the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University and The Fan neighborhood, the popular restaurant Balliceaux (203 N. Lombardy St., 804-355-3008) is a good spot anytime for cocktails (and great food), and once a month, the restaurant plays hosts to a very fun queer dance party called Beard.

Also near the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), you'll find one of the largest primarily African-American gay nightclubs in the country, Colours (536 N. Harrison St., 804-353-9776), which is open only on Saturdays but packs in huge crowds of both men and women (it's open till 3 am). There's a very large dance floor.

The West End neighborhood of Carytown, sometimes dubbed the "Mile of Style" along its main drag, West Cary Street, is home to some cool hangouts with mostly mixed followings. There's the reliably fun, lesbian-centric (but all-welcoming) Babes of Carytown bar and restaurant, which is open for lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, and late-night drinks - it's got dancing, drag king shows, a volleyball court, and a generally friendly crowd). And a couple of blocks north of Cary Street, Mars Bar (115 N. 18th St., 804-644-6277) is a snazzy little locals bar with a largely, though by no means exclusively, gay following. And the hip and elegant Secco Wine Bar (2933 W. Cary St., 804-353-0670) is a lovely place to gather for distinctive wines (more than 30 by the glass are offered), and delicious cheese and charcuterie plates as well as other good snacks.

In the trendy and quite lively Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, 2113 Bistro and Lounge (2113 E. Main St., 804-343-2113) is in part gay-owned and definitely draws a sizable LGBT crowd, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. It's a swanky, mod-looking space with great food and cocktails. Additionally, nearby, you'll find festive hangouts like McCormack's Irish Pub (12 N. 18th St.), Current burger joint (140 Virginia St.), and the coffeehouse and bistro Urban Farmhouse (1217 E. Cary St.) are nice places to enjoy drinks or dinner.

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