Seattle’s one of the cities that I hold near and dear to my heart. It was one of the two cities in which I chose to celebrate my 40th birthday, in early April of 2014. It was my first time in the Northwest and loved it so much I jumped at the chance to spend three weeks there with a friend over Christmas and New Year’s in 2018/2019. Telling Seattleites what times of the year I visited in the past and mentioning that I loved it, the common response was, “Oh, if you loved it during those months, you’re going to love it during the Summer!”
Challenge accepted. But how will Seattle be post-pandemic?
With an Alaskan Cruise booked with Celebrity for August 11 through the 18th, we decided to spend a couple extra days after the cruise in Seattle and see how the city was in the Summer of 2023 compared to my 2018/2019 Winter and my 2014 Spring, and especially see how well the Capitol Hill gayborhood survived the pandemic. Remembering the pandemic era stories coming out of Seattle where some Capitol Hill blocks were taken over during COVID by citizens to create CHAZ “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone”, forcing the closure of the Seattle Police’s East Precinct (still closed), I was curious to see if the gay nightlife was affected because this CHAZ was literally the city’s gayborhood.
Capitol Hill is known as Seattle’s gayborhood, but there are also a great deal of straight bars too on the hill, but the queer bars seem to be quite prominent and it is the epicenter of pride each year. So where did we wet our whistle? We only had two nights in town and we walked about 10 miles each day, so our plan was a one-and-done at each bar, if we could.
This bar has to be first on my list to visit as it is the most unique bar in Seattle. A space smaller than my little Florida bungalow, Pony packs in as much as it can with naked men wall murals, multiple 3-foot paper maché penis and balls hanging from the ceiling, a go-go boy that post out of nowhere and dances on the tiny bar, and a dj that spins to play music that you would never pick out yourself and it works. Dark, small space, triangular patio, graffiti bathrooms, and a “who the fuck will I see there tonight”, mix all that together, don’t expect much and then take it all in, that’s Pony. It’s where I saw drag queen Bosco perform a trio of Jesus Christ inspired drag at Christmas, a video I treasure.
One of my favorite simple neighborhood bars of Seattle that offers a great place to meet up with friends after dinner, before dinner, just for drinks, a game of pool, watching sports. It’s bright, airy, great staff and clientele is great to look at, too. While we were there, some guy named Tony had a pizza delivered to the bar, most likely to enjoy with his beer. We all wanted to be Tony’s friend. There’s no showboating here or posing, just men having a great and relaxing time.
Another gay bar with penises prominent, more so on the televisions and we’ll take it. Unlike Pony, Diesel is a little more refined, brighter, the bear bar in town with some leather thrown in. I’m a bigger beefy guy, but the bears in Seattle are big and tall and all at Diesel. They’ve added a patio-like area along the sidewalk for more seating and that night, they needed it. I remember it was where we watched RuPaul’s Drag Race back in the day so the bears are not the man-eating kind, but I am sure that could be arranged. This felt like one of the better bars to meet someone new as everyone seems chatty and willing to say hello. That can be also true at the other Seattle bars, but I feel that the other bars are more where you go to meet up with your already-knowns.
This is one of the largest offerings for the queer community in Seattle. With a front entrance bar with a pool table and video games, heavily decorated with stainless steel, it’s a fun spot. It then expands into a large dance room and an outside tented patio area. This space has many spots where you can hang with friends, dance the night away, see a show, and yes, I do think this is also a great place to meet someone, but it might be more of a meet for the night or a quickie (am I speaking from experience?).
With our one-and-done policy for the weekend, and the Cuff’s doorman asking for a $20 cover, we actually did not go in during this trip. If we had more time and were looking to stay at a bar for two or three hours, yes, the cover would have been paid. This was the only spot we visited that night that was charging a cover without a show. (Instagram)
I think we stopped in here in 2014 when there was a great lime shortage. The Coronas tasted a little different, but we enjoyed the space. This trip, this was the other bar that was charging a cover, but they had a show, drag queen Willam was performing with some supporting acts. It was bright, loud, cheerful from the streets as we didn’t have time for a show.
This bar gets my vote for where the pretty people go. Tons of eye candy, modern design, mixed ages and sexes, this space was visually pleasing on all levels. I probably would have stayed here for more than one drink as it was just fun to people watch here. There was a flow of new people every minute. Was this the gay hub of Seattle? The gay Union Station of the city? This is a great elevated and comfortable offering for the city without being pretentious and martini centric.
The last time I was at this bar, I considered it a step up from Madison Pub, not better, just a little more refined. Even though we were doing a one-and-done this trip, we took the 10-minute walk across Capitol Hill north from Pike and Pine to the top of Olive Way. Expecting a relaxed sports bar with great clientele, to our surprise, it was underwear night and everyone was in a jock. When I say everyone, I think everyone in the city that owned a jock was there as it was packed, humid, and damn sexy sexy sexy.
Funderwear is a monthly event filled with great drinks, good music, professional DJ lighting, and sexy guys showing off what they’ve got. There is no Dress Code, yet underwear is encouraged. Clothing check available.
We could not do the one-and-done here as there was literally hardly any room in this bar, but the asses on display were a fine substitute for the liquor. I’ve never seen it like this, but I’m going to have to watch their social media to see what other theme nights they have planned.
If we had more time, we would have stopped in again at the Eagle, maybe talked to the girls at Wildrose, and we will have to come back to see Massive when it opens for Halloween in the spot where the three-story R Place was. Then there are a couple of bath houses, Steamworks Baths Seattle and Club Z. I’m sure I might have missed some of the other Seattle offerings.
Not a One-and-Done City
We know you have those cities where you visit it once and there’s no draw to return. I’ve used the one-and-done phrase quite a bit in this post, but Seattle is far from a one trip city. It’s actually one that is at the top of my list to consider for retirement. We will return to Seattle as much and as often as we can.
Definitely next time we might switch to a two-and-done for each bar and stay more than a couple of nights, but after the week of drinking on the Alaskan Cruise, one-and-done was what needed to happen. All the gay spots were actually very wonderful to visit and each one was a highlight of the night in their own way. There were no sour spots, everyone was pleasant, enjoyable, and I will have to say it is one of the best gayborhoods in the nation. The variety of places, clients, were a great showing of what gays were in the city.