This trendy gay bar in the Warehouse District is primarily a dance club and has three full-service bars in addition to an outdoor patio with plenty of seating. The club always has some sort of special event going on, such as karaoke, New Year’s Eve parties, music from guest DJs, Broadway revues, amateur strip contests, appearances by well-known drag queens, and more. Oilcan Harry’s has a fun vibe and the crowd usually consists of men in their 20s and 30s, and they tend to be well-dressed. While OCH is primarily for gay men, straight folks and women are certainly welcome. It gets packed on weekends, so if you prefer a quieter environment and conversation, come on a weeknight.
This fun downtown gay and lesbian lounge has been voted “the best gay bar in Austin” by the Austin Chronicle from 2006 – 2008. The bar has New Year’s Eve parties, amateur strip contests, Family Feud games, Guitar Hero & Rock Band playoffs, hip hop music nights, karaoke, and more. Rain can get packed, especially on the dance floor, but if you get claustrophobic, you can venture into one of the lounge areas or outdoor patio, which has heat lamps in the cold months. While it is a gay bar, the club brings in men and women, both gay and straight, due to its fun atmosphere and endless dancing to trendy techno and pop music. Some nights, you may have to wait in a line to get in.
The self-proclaimed “alternative to 4th Street,” the Cockpit is a gay and lesbian dance club. It tends to be less packed than some of the other gay bars but there’s never a lack of events and specials. Every Saturday night is ‘80s night, with a dance party and 50 cent Jell-O shots and $1.50 drafts. There is live music on Thursdays and a Wednesday is ladies night, with a lesbian-geared go-go dance party. Pool is free on Mondays, and there’s a free food buffet from 5 – 9 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays. The Cockpit, or CP as it is often called, caters to both the lesbian and gay scene, much to the delight of the local ladies. There is an outdoor patio if you’re more interested in conversation.
The Rainbow Cattle Company is a gay bar with a country western twist. Every Saturday night is Ride ‘um Cowboy Country Night, where folks show up in jeans and boots and spend the night two-stepping, line dancing, and waltzing. The bar offers something for everyone. While the bar is becoming more popular with the lesbian crown on all nights, Thursday is officially ladies night. Friday night is “Boy’s Bar” with live DJs. On Tuesdays there are dance lessons and karaoke, and Wednesday night is hip hop/rap night. Sunday afternoon is for chub chasers and Sunday nights are all about Latino men. The bartenders are known to be friendly and the drink prices are very reasonable.
Around since 1985, Charlie’s is the oldest gay bar in Austin. Located near the Capitol, Charlie’s is both a nightclub and a grill, so you can grab a steak and dance to the DJ at the same place. It is casual and friendly, and has the feel of a laid-back local bar. It’s popular with the post-college crowd, which is why it isn’t too wild. Every night of the week has a special event, including wet underwear contests, amateur stripping, performances by Manwatch Dancers, shows with weekly guests, and more. There are also, of course, occasional drag shows. The club is 18 and up every day except Friday, when it’s 21 and up.
Rusty Spurs is the newest gay bar in town; it opened in the summer of 2008 and is delighting those who feel like Rainbow Cattle Company doesn’t have enough country dancing anymore. Rusty Spurs won the Austin Chronicle’s Best New Bar in the 2008 reader’s poll. There’s a huge outdoor patio with its own bar for those who want to smoke or sit down for a chat. Inside, there’s as large, wooden dance floor where you can find people line dancing and doing the two-step. There are lessons a few nights a week for beginners, and open dance nights on the weekends, where people can really show off their moves.
Around since 1986, this gay leather bar is a humble little spot in downtown away from the madness. The dress code used to be “Levis, leather, or latex” but it has since been relaxed and is now more of a bear bar. The drinks are cheap and there are specials every night. There is a dance floor, pool tables, an outdoor patio, and live music. Chain Drive has the feel of a dive bar, and inside it’s dark and cozy with friendly bartenders (and nasty bathrooms). But it’s a friendly and casual place, great for those who don’t quite fit in the mainstream gay scene. There have been rumors for more than a decade that the bar will be demolished in the city’s attempts to beautify downtown, but so far, it's still standing.