316 Rensselaer Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Located in a huge historic house in Dilworth/South End, this longtime neighborhood bar is flourishing under new management. Downstairs a comfortable lounge encourages conversation, while upstairs folks can party on in the large bar and balcony area. Weeknights feature drink specials, with karaoke on Tuesdays and Sundays, Sexy Trivia on Wednesdays and retro music on Thursdays. Comedy drag shows with regulars Patti O’Furniture and Buff Faye take place on Saturdays. The bar’s free Sunday brunch, with specials on bloody marys and mimosas, is a weekend must for many.
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2131 Central Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205
The favorite neighborhood hangout for Plaza-Midwood’s LGBT community generates a friendly vibe. Early in the evening, you can play free pool, listen to the internet jukebox and enjoy the daily beer and drink specials. Later in the evening, the place fills up as service industry members get off work and head out to party. Central Station has karaoke on Mondays, pool tournaments, occasional live shows, DJ dancing on weekends and two patios with cornhole and close-up views of the Central Avenue action.
2301 Freedom Drive
Charlotte, NC 28208
In business since 1968, Scorpio is one of the oldest bars in Charlotte, as well as one of the original LGBT nightspots in the state. It’s grown considerably over the years, but the great dance floor, complete with light show, and excellent music mix keep the crowds, both gay and straight, coming back to this west side landmark. It currently has four bars, a large patio, two dance floors and long lines on Saturday nights. The drag shows here are considered the best in town, with performances on Sundays and Wednesdays, plus special shows featuring the top female impersonators on tour and the annual Miss Gay North Carolina America Pageant. Other regular events include talent shows, college nights, drink specials and Friday Latino nights with salsa music in the upstairs DIVAS lounge. This is a late-night venue, with doors opening at 10 p.m., and is currently open only Wednesday and Friday through Sunday. You can fill out a membership application online.
4544 South Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28209
An alternative sports bar that welcomes everyone, Sidelines has big-screen TVs tuned to all of the game action, plus free pool, Wii games, darts, cornhole and complimentary WiFi. Regulars here bowl every week across the street at Centennial Lanes, and enjoy frequent tournaments and outings to sporting events. Sidelines sponsors the Charlotte Royals, the city’s gay rugby team, and supports many charities. The nightly drink deals here are some of the best in town, with draft, shot and martini specials seven days a week. You won’t go hungry either; bar food is available, and the Skyland Restaurant, open 24 hours, is just next door.
3935 Queen City Drive
Charlotte, NC 28208
Located a bit off the beaten track on the I-85 South service road just beyond the airport, the Woodshed is also a bit more out there than the other bars in town, offering guys a shirts-optional experience. Daily drink specials and a heated patio make this a friendly spot, especially if you’re wearing your cowboy hat and boots. This is the official home of the Tradesmen, a leather/Levi club, and hosts monthly Uproarr daddy bear events. Weekly events include karaoke, pool tournaments and Thursday Underwear Nights (formerly Boots and Boxers).
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.