A guide to Charm City's friendly, low-key gay bars and clubs

In D.C., one large gay club seems to easily blend into another. Fit and finished, and very finicky, the gay bar and dance scene in Baltimore's big sister to the south can feel impressive but bland. If your gym membership has lapsed-or (gasp!) if you never had one to begin with-you may find yourself on the outside looking in, literally or metaphorically. And you had better be ready to pay up.

Luckily, Baltimore has its own queer style: lively, unpretentious, and, if you're lucky, cheap-just what you want in a hot date.

I've visited plenty of gay bars in different cities, and it's hard to find such a mix of people as you'd find in the Hippo, Jay's, Sappho's, or Quest. The queer community of Charm City just likes to mix and mingle, drink, and dance-we're all kind of sloppy like that, and proud of it.

Aside from Grand Central-$3.50 for a can of Natty Boh? Bitch, please-almost all the bars have great drink prices and specials. Most of the bars are conveniently located in Mount Vernon, which, unless you're new to the city, you recognize as the gayborhood. The area lights up (in more ways than one) when Pride rolls around, giving the already-lively gay bar scene an extra oomph in atmosphere and drink specials. So whether you're visiting town for Pride or a local looking to explore, here's your guide, hon.

Grand Central, in the heart of Mount Vernon, divided between the bar and a dancing area, is an obvious choice for a Saturday night. . . if you're willing to pay the cover. 1001 N. Charles St., (410) 752-7133, centralstationpub.com.


The Hippo, across the street from Central, also features drinks and dancing. While quieter than its neighbor, it comes alive on Deep in the Game nights, featuring drag performers. 1 W. Eager St., (410) 457-0069, clubhippo.com.






Sappho's, the "ladies lounge" above Grand Central, could be seen as the quieter, comfortable, posh sister to its downstairs neighbor. 1001/1003 N. Charles St., (410) 752-7133, centralstationpub.com/sapphos.






Jay's on Read, says its manager, is "not a gay bar; it's for everyone." It's the perfect bar to take friends to for a quiet night. 225 W. Read St., (410) 225-0188.






The Drinkery on Read Street has a casual atmosphere, with laughter constantly swelling from its crowd. One patron likes it because "the drinks are cheap and my friends are here." 205 W. Read St., (410) 225-3100.






Leon's Leather Lounge and Bar on West Chase Street is known for attracting bears, leathermen, and their chasers. One patron, Danny, says he "loves that atmosphere, and the bartenders." They feature a generous helping of cheap drinks and a two-for-one happy "hour" that lasts until midnight. Grr. 227 W. Chase St., (410) 539-4850.





The Gallery Bar and Restaurant in Station North is a small corner bar with a mixed gay and lesbian crowd and a no-nonsense attitude. 1735 Maryland Ave., (410) 539-6965.







Quest, near Canton, features happy-hour specials until 8 p.m. and all day Thursday. With arcade and table games, and monthly karaoke, it's a great getaway from the bustle of Mount Vernon. 3607 Fleet St., (410) 563-2617, questbarbaltimore.com.

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