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10 best lesbian bars, clubs, & events in Chicago

Robyn Exton

May 17, 2023

10 best lesbian bars, clubs, & events in Chicago

When it comes to lesbian bars, Chicago has some strong contenders. Despite the decline of lesbian bars across the United States, at HER, we want to highlight the places where our community members in Chi-town can still have a good time! 

Chicago has a rich and vibrant LGBTQIA+ history, with subcultures like the leather community overlapping a lot with the gay scene, and prohibition setting the stage for many underground bars to continue their services. 

Now, Chicago has a number of iconic bars and nightclubs that have served as safe spaces and gathering spots for the larger LGBTQIA+ community.

So if you’re a baby gay in the Chicago suburbs ready to take on the Chicago lesbian dating scene, or you’re a sapphic traveler ready to hit one of the queerest history-rich cities in the United States, we show you some of the best lesbian and lesbian-friendly bars, events, and dance clubs in Chicago. 

These queer bars have captured the hearts and minds of queer Chicagoans, and we’re sure you’ll find your home here too.

Please note: LGBTQ+ spaces, including lesbian bars, have faced significant challenges in recent years, including gentrification and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep this in mind as you read on, because it’s possible that some of the information you find may be outdated or no longer accurate. Be sure to check with individual venues directly for the most up-to-date information on their hours, policies, and events.

Chicago’s evolving lesbian bar & nightlife scene explained

There are only 20+ actual lesbian bars in the whole of the United States, according to the Lesbian Bar Project. So while only a handful of the following bars can be considered “lesbian bars” in actuality, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring the Windy City’s queer side. While there are only two official lesbian bars in Chicago, sapphic-friendly bars are a-plenty, just remember to bring a good crowd, and you’re sure to have a good time.

Read on for our take on the best lesbian bars in Chicago.

Nobody’s Darling: A Black-owned lesbian bar in LGBTQIA+ friendly Chicago

Lesbian dating in Chicago doesn’t have to be hard. Make your way with your next HER date to Andersonville in North Chicago for an upbeat vibe with upscale cocktails. 

Nobody’s Darling hosts a classy environment that the local sapphics love, not to mention the fact that it’s a Black-owned bar that folks love to support. Founders Angela and Renauda envisioned an elegant yet relaxing environment for their community members to lounge in. 

As for the crowd, the reviews are in with over 200 reviews and an average of 4.9 stars on Google, you can expect your Friday night experience at Nobody’s Darling to be

“packed with such a fun, diverse group not commonly seen on the north side of Chicago,”

says recent patron Sam in a Google review.

Nobody’s Darling signature cocktails range from $12 to $16, though non-alcoholic mocktails are available for $10. Spirits and beers are also available as well. 

Kick up your heels or dress shoes and enjoy Nobody’s Darling on your first stop on a lesbian night out in Chi-town.

Nobody’s Darling is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and their opening hours range from 2 pm to 5 pm throughout the rest of the week. 

Dorothy Downstairs: A 1920s loungey feel for 21st century Chicagoan sapphics

Source: Dorothy Downstairs

Another classy addition to the iconic lesbian bars of Chicago is Dorothy Downstairs. Find it in the West Town neighborhood along with its magical crowd. 

Seriously, when we say magical, we mean magical.

Patron Corrie says “If you’re queer or trans, this is a magical place, and you must get here [ASAP] if you are in Chicago.”

Its story is an unlikely one: a lounge that opened one month before the COVID pandemic shutdowns in 2020 and had to close temporarily as a result. But it’s back with a vengeance because Chicago will not have its sapphic community without a place for classy fun. They’ve got monthly queer open mics called Fruit Salad and even burlesque shows you can’t miss.

Their cocktail menu ranges from $9 to $15, with a  5% service fee added to every bill. The service fee does not include gratuity, so remember to tip your bartender at Dorothy and other bars on this list! 

Open every day of the week at 6 pm — walk in for the magical experience of Dorothy Downstairs.

Dive into Big Chicks for a laid-back feel

Source: Squarespace 

Big Chicks, on the other hand, exemplifies a storied woman-owned bar that dates back to 1986 when it was opened. It’s got its own entry on the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, something not to be taken lightly. 

The lounge’s namesake comes from that of the owner, Michelle Fire, who is sometimes referred to as the Big Chick. Big Chick herself often responds to patrons’ reviews on Google, where there’s a lot of love for the lounge, with over 600 reviews and winning 4.6 stars.

While it’s not strictly a lesbian bar, it’s got all the trappings to feel at home as a queer woman. You can find a small and cozy environment at Big Chicks, a pool table, a beer garden, and cheap drinks. Just remember to bring cash since they don’t accept cards. 

Surround yourself with Fire’s personal art collection in an art decorative style building as you bring your next date or group of friends to relax and socialize at this bar on North Sheridan Road. 

Compared to Nobody’s Darling and Dorothy, Big Chicks is a good alternative for a more dive bar-type feel. Come casual and grab your favorite draft beer any day of the week, open from 4 pm to 2 am from Monday through Friday, and from 9 am on Saturday and Sunday.

Roscoe’s Tavern: the perfect night of drag

Source: UrbanMatter

Another veteran on the gay and lesbian nightlife scene is Roscoe’s Tavern, where you can dine-in and dance, play pool, and sit outside with your entourage. 

Roscoe’s hosts drag shows, and Drag Race watch parties that have many reviews raving online. Take the experience from Hannah, a recent patron:

“The atmosphere was wonderful and [the] staff was super friendly.” 

Other patrons often highlight the extravagant experience of watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Fridays at Roscoe’s. Expect drag performances to be priced around $10.

Here you’ll find a solid crowd of mid-20 to 40-somethings, open from 3 pm on Mondays through Friday and from 12 pm on Sundays and Saturdays. 

The Closet: Going strong for over three decades

This is the queer haven you’ve been searching for! The Closet is the lovechild of Rose Pohl & Judy Petrovsky, who opened the spot back in 1978. Though it’s mainly frequented by women, and non-binary femmes — all are welcome to this inclusive venue. 

The vibes are immaculate thanks to a combination of having a full-sized bar with black vinyl stools hugging the walls, and a dance floor that’s pretty much asking you to let your hair down and belt out your favorite tunes during their weekly Karaoke nights (you already know they have themed events, too).

While it may be little in size, don’t let that fool you. The atmosphere is positively electric, the service is top-notch, and the drinks are nothing short of amazing. So whether you’re looking for a wild night out with a lover, or a cozy hangout spot with your chosen family, this is the place to be.

Drinks range between $6-12, and they’re open Monday through Friday from 4 pm – 4 am and on the weekends from noon – 5 am. 

Sidetrack: The perfect place for queer dancing 

Source: Chicago GoPride

Just up the street, we’ve got Progress Bar. You might find yourself at Sidetrack, which is literally just up the street on Halsted. Expect mixed crowds with mostly gay men, but this Latino-owned gay bar welcomes lesbians and other queer women and is the perfect place for dancing, according to reviews.

Pop into Sidetrack anytime from Monday to Friday from 3 pm to 2 am, Saturday from 1 pm to 3 am, and Sunday from 1 pm to 2 am. And lucky you, there’s normally not a cover at Sidetrack, except for special events.

Lesbian clubs and events in Chicago

STRAPPED in Berlin

Source: Berlin Chicago

Berlin, a nightclub on West Belmont Avenue, is known for being welcoming to all. They’ve been promising and guaranteeing that everyone will have a good time since 1983. 

This LGBT-friendly nightclub even hosts an event every first Friday of the month called STRAPPED that’s geared towards queer women and trans people. Keep an eye out on their Instagram, where they post the latest news on upcoming lesbian clubbing events in Chi-town.

Slo ‘Mo at Sleeping Village

Source: Slo ‘Mo

Slo ‘Mo is a party collective that has been “cultivating queer community connection since 2011” in Chicago. Sensual, soulful, and fun are the words that community members often associate with these parties, where funk, R&B, house, and disco play all night long.

According to their website, “All Slo ‘Mo events feature and employ majority women and gender expansive, LGBTQ+ & BIPOC artists, vendors and small businesses. Slo ‘Mo approaches space making through a lens of care and compassion, always working to grow as a place where folks across the community spectrum can feel celebrated and seen.” Sign me TF up, baby! 

Go to Slo ‘Mo at Sleeping Village and you’ll not only enjoy yourself but know that often your money goes to a good cause: Slo ‘Mo often fundraises for local businesses and communities that need help, like the Brave Space Alliance Trans Relief Fund. 

There is a sliding scale for entry to Slo ‘Mo at Sleeping Village, ranging from $10 to $20. Learn more about where to get your tickets for the next queer party at Sleeping Village on Instagram.

Support Chicago’s lesbian businesses

Lesbians and queer women want a place to congregate as much as the next person. Just because there are so few lesbian bars in the United States doesn’t mean that there is no space for you. So long as you support the bars in this list and beyond, know that you’re helping queer businesses thrive! 

Further reading: Now that you’ve got Chicago covered, what’s next on your queer bucket list? 

If you’re heading West to Arizona, there’s a queer scene there too and of course, the East Coast welcomes you in New York City, which also has a lot to offer when it comes to lesbian nightlife. 

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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