After gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states in the United States, bars and nightclubs popped up and even thrived. Some of these bars are specifically designed to attract gay patrons, while others are not, though they often have a gay clientele. Regardless of their marketing, most of these bars and nightclubs have a reputation for being exciting and lively venues. That’s partially due to the fact that they are friendly and welcoming to a gay crowd. Openly gay people did not always have this option in the United States.

In fact, 100 years ago, gay men and women were persecuted. They were being arrested and forced into psychiatric institutions because they were attracted to people who were of the same sex. The medical community at the time classified homosexuality as a mental disease that could be treated. A couple of cities created areas exclusively for gays who wanted to be with other gays, which eventually became known as “gayborhoods.” These neighborhoods became popular places for entertainment venues like bars and clubs, as well as theaters and art galleries run by LGBTQ+ people.

In the postwar period, gay bars and clubs grew in numbers, with numerous bars and clubs opening along the coasts and in big cities across the USA. This development was partly due to gay men who had served their country during the war: returning home, they were instrumental in creating a safe and accepting community. Gay communities organized around gay rights, mobilizing to protect civil rights through protests, advocacies, and organizations.

Soon the conservative Senator Joseph McCarthy began to target gay Americans, launching a “lavender scare” that linked being gay to “deviance” or “anti-American behavior.” As a result, being gay was still seen as a shameful condition at this time: queer-identifying Americans gathered in nightlife venues in order to meet and congregate with others like themselves.

Things were hardly easy in the 1950s and 1960s when gay bars suddenly appeared in big cities across the United States. Many of these bars were located in run-down town areas with quiet, austere facades to keep the police away. The owners of such establishments often paid off local police forces to avoid raids on the bars, which often turned violent. As a result, innocent people were often arrested but rarely convicted; those who were convicted rarely got the punishment they deserved.

As time went on and movements supporting the gay community grew stronger, people began to use these bars as meeting places to rally for their rights. Before long, Mafia families saw an opportunity to make money and started paying off the police forces that protected their bars. In return, they made lots of money by charging high prices for alcoholic drinks served in protected bars frequented by gay communities. One of these Mafia-protected bars was the Stonewall Inn. 

When police raids were outlawed, increasing numbers of gay bars opened their doors. These new establishments were public, freestanding, and readily available to the public. Naturally, some people still preferred the old-fashioned way of meeting people in back alleys or darkened rooms. These people had an entrance into a different subculture: a market for dating apps.

These new dating apps made it far simpler to connect with other members of the gay community. The demand for dating apps also broadened the market, and with the emergence of more gay bars also came a change in the community as gentrification altered the old-fashioned ways of meeting people.


These days, whether you’re in a city, a town, or out in the country, there’s a gay bar in just about every corner of the USA. Ideally, a gay bar provides a safe place where the LGBTQ+ community can come together, speak openly and meet new people.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to consider the history of gay bars when choosing a place to hang out. After all, a lot of trends that have occurred in the past continue to influence the gay community today.
With all of that being said, if you are looking for a great gay bar in Philadelphia, look no further than our hot spot here at Level Up Bar & Lounge. We are your safe haven and night spot for all those relaxing night-outs and weekend parties! Visit us today and have the most unforgettable time of your life!


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