Columbus is home to a number of LGBTQ businesses, including several gay and lesbian bars and clubs.
Columbus has lost a few LGBTQ-friendly bars over the years. At their peak, LGBTQ bars and clubs were a safe space for these communities to feel very welcome, as opposed to less accepting bars. But whether due to cultural shifts or increased inclusivity and acceptance at nearly any bar or club, there is a downward trend in the number of these spaces nationally. LGBTQ bars have declined 36.6% from 2007 to 2019, according to research by Greggor Mattson, associate professor of sociology at Oberlin College.
In a 2016 report by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the chamber found that LGBTQ businesses have contributed approximately $1.7 trillion to the economy, are open an average of 12 years, and have created more than 33,000 jobs. These spaces make a significant contribution to the economy and hopefully, with the support of the larger community, be around for many more years to come.
Here's a look at five popular LGBTQ bars everyone can enjoy.
Lanée McNeal, right and Jackie Sansavera, left, sit at the bar at Slammers, which is one of the last lesbian bars in the country, and the only one in Ohio, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. There are only 15 lesbian bars left in the country.
Lesbian bar Slammers Bar & Pizza Kitchen, at 202 E. Long St. downtown, has been open for just under 30 years and is Columbus' oldest LGBTQ bar. According to The Lesbian Bar Project, just 21 lesbian bars remain in the United States. Slammers is the only one left in Ohio.
The bar's motto, "All walks, one groove" exemplifies just how welcoming the bar is to everyone. Not only serving drinks, Slammers also has an extensive menu featuring pizza, subs and wraps. On various nights, catch DJs and live music, trivia nights and more.
The bar is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 12 a.m. The bar is closed on Mondays.
Nightlife: Two veterans of Slammers open Merion Village bar Rumours
The Union Cafe at 782 N. High St.
Also originating in the '90s, the popular gay bar Union Cafe, 782 N High St., is a restaurant and bar in the Short North. In addition to an extensive menu that includes salads, sandwiches, pizza, all-day breakfast, and an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch on Sunday mornings, the drink menu includes wine, beer, spirits, specialty and premium Long Islands, giant and regular cocktails and more. The cafe also regularly hosts drag events, just like sister club Axis across the street.
Union Cafe is open Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Virginia West performs at the Virginia West Pride Fest in District West of Columbus, Ohio June 12.
A newer space on this list, downtown show bar and nightclub District West, 145 N. 5th St., is located nearby Slammers, and customers bounce back and forth to patronize both businesses.
Home to the West family, District West is an all-inclusive venue featuring all kinds of drag performances, cabaret, and more entertainment, courtesy of a cast of nearly two dozen dancers, drag artists and performers. District West also serves up the drinks, with a menu that includes specialty cocktails, wine and beer.
District West is open seven days a week, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
At 863 S. High St., Club Diversity is a martini and piano bar found in a house in the Brewery District.
Dubbed "Club D" by patrons, the bar is welcome to everyone, including members of the LGBTQ community and "friendly straights," according to the bar's website. The bar has hosted karaoke nights, movie nights in gazebos, plays, live music and more.
The bar is open Mondays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Awol Bar in Olde Towne East is another longstanding gay bar in Columbus. At 49 Parsons Ave., the bar hosts karaoke, DJs, dance parties, go-go dancers, tea dances and more at its indoor and outdoor dance floors.
The bar is open from 2 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. every day.