Check Out These LGBTQ-Friendly Bars and Nightclubs in Detroit
Story by Ian Waldie | Photos by Theron Logan
Detroit’s gay scene is vibrant, diverse, and inclusive. Since the 1940s, the gay community in Detroit has shifted from convening in mostly underground spaces to out and proud ones welcoming all genders and sexual orientations.
It’s been a long journey, but LGBTQ people have remained resilient. Cultivating spaces to let off steam and connect with the community has been an essential facet of progress.
From downtown Detroit to Royal Oak, Gay-Friendly nightlife reigns supreme. More diverse groups of people = more fun. These bars and nightclubs are filled with people who want to dance and let loose. Or just have a drink of their choice at the bar and chat. Or just sit quietly in the corner with friends and watch. It’s all okay and nobody cares – just do you. Try these LGBTQ bars and clubs for a guaranteed good time.
Oh, she’s understated and she’s fun! Adam’s Apple is a smaller space in Warrendale that is known for karaoke nights on Thursdays, so get those singing pipes tuned and ready to belt. It’s also more of a chatty bar where you can hold a nice conversation with your crew or a friendly stranger. Both owned and operated by trans women, Adam’s Apple is well-known as a welcoming space for trans folk. But of course, all are welcome at this quaint neighborhood bar.
Madonna worshippers, this is where you want to be. Not only can you dance to a plethora of Madonna jams in one night here, but you can literally dance on the floor she danced on when she was 16 and unknown! WOW. As one of the oldest gay spaces in Detroit, this spot is true to its gay roots but is always open to anyone who wants to join the fun. Located in the former gay mecca of Detroit, Palmer Park, the complex includes the Menjo’s Bar, the Eagle Leather Bar, and the Olympus Theater. It’s definitely the place for a night of gay-oriented entertainment — the best kind!
Another Palmer Park hot spot, Inuendo specializes in entertainment, food, and drinks. People go wild for the chicken wings and at night the stage is packed with enthusiastic party-goers. As far as the music goes, Inuendo features mostly R&B and hip hop, so if that’s what gets you out of your chair, this place is for you.
One of the best gay and drag bars in the city, Gigi’s is optimal for drinks and a show. Enjoy the lively cabaret performances on the lower level or dance the night away in their upstairs bar. It’s the perfect little dive for a night of outsized laughs and fun. Located in Dearborn off of Warren Avenue.
Ferndale has been the center of gay life in Detroit since the 2000s and Soho is the classy yet casual spot for gay men, women and everyone in between right in the heart of the downtown area off West Nine Mile Road. The bar offers specialty cocktails and martinis, a lot of space for dancing, a pool table, and cool atmospheric lighting and decorations. The staff is friendly and the patrons are always there to have a great night. It’s perfect as your mainstay for the evening or as a nightcap. Look out for trivia nights and special events during the week as well.
Pronto! is a downtown Royal Oak bar that has been serving the LGBTQ community for decades. Open for lunch, the restaurant and bar offer patio seating and delicious, stacked deli sandwiches. At night the bar and back patio become lively and filled with gregarious night-goers. The dance floor is no joke on weekends, with LED lights cascading over the floor and the most iconic music videos playing all night long. From playing a classic Whitney to a dance-heavy Rihanna or Beyonce track this place won’t shy away from letting you have your moment on the floor. There is seating and some billiards tables near the dance floor as well for the more reserved patrons or if you need to catch your breath a little.
Eli Tea is a modern tea café and specialty shop with a flagship store in downtown Birmingham, Michigan. They specialize in loose leaf tea (aka good and proper tea). Every day, they brew hundreds of cups of tea - hot, iced, tea lattes, bubble tea and even offer raw kombucha on tap. They also offer sober nightlife options like board game nights, drag queen bingo, and tarot card reading events.
Spot Lite is an inclusive bar and gallery space whose mission is to foster a home of collaboration and creativity for the enjoyment of all people. Catch Dj sets, live music, art installations, and overall good vibes.
The Royce is a minority and female-led business committed to values of equality and inclusivity. They are a retail shop and wine bar hybrid, and their selection is curated to highlight the best, small-batch producers from all major wine regions of the world. The Royce's sister establishment is butcher shop and restaurant in Detroit's West Village, Marrow, and Mink, a seafood-centric eatery in Corktown. Keep your eyes on their Instagram feed for a heads up on their monthly LGBTQ+ soirées.
This dive bar has been a local staple for more than 25 years and offers a welcoming atmosphere. Stop in for cheap drinks, karaoke, and dancing.
Temple Bar, @jonbilous
There’s nothing these bars and nightclubs love more than seeing a great turnout. Whether you’re gay, straight, bi, trans, or queer, these are great establishments to make a night of and interact with a diverse community. Be sure to check out Detroit LGBTQ organizations like the Ruth Ellis Center and Affirmations as well, which are providing services for homeless and questioning LGBTQ youth in the Detroit area.