Frank Sinatra first immortalized New York as ‘the city that never sleeps’ in the lyrics to his classic anthem: Theme for New York. Since then, many other cities have co-opted the nickname – Las Vegas and Barcelona to name but two – but, as the first, New York has quite the reputation to live up to. It is true that the metro never closes, and New York has birthed the likes of the club kid scene of the 80’s, the ballroom scene of the 90’s and untold other underground movements and diverse scenes famed for their all-night partying antics. The question is: does it still hold its own on the world stage when it comes to clubs – especially those of the gay variety?
Well…sort of, is the short answer. On the one hand, there aren't many large dedicated gay dance clubs in New York and some shut down during or since the Covid pandemic. On the other, there are a variety of organizations that host monthly parties at either the same or rotating venues across the city. NYC hosts some of the best Circuit Parties in the world and there’s always one happening somewhere in New York on any given weekend. There are also numerous bars which straddle the line between bar and club – with late licenses and DJs playing till the sunset, how can one really distinguish the difference. Finally, for those with a taste for an edgier queerer clubbing experience, the club kid scene has made a revival over the last few years with its own extravagant avant-garde take on the party world.
Whichever way you`d like your night to end, here are the best options for those visiting New York under the belief that – at least for one night – sleep is the enemy.
Let’s face it: Circuit Parties can be a little samey samey. Alegria is a monthly party in NYC which turns that on its head. Sure, it has your usual Circuit DJs playing to a sea of muscled torsos across a huge dancefloor, but it also takes pride in inserting a little theatrical flair into the mix. So, you can expect jaw-dropping light and laser special effects flashing over creative themed performances. The club has a very loyal following in NYC and there’s a palpable family-like atmosphere as a result. As a bonus, the same company runs Sunrise — – an apt name as the party takes place on a rooftop to take advantage of the gorgeous setting and rising New York sun.
Meat is full of exactly what it says on the tin. It is a monthly circuit party filled with hot sweaty topless men dancing to the beats of some of the biggest international DJs – all below stages hosting sexy shows and ripped go-go boys. Meat adds its own flavor by being one of the sexiest of the Circuit parties where – as they put it – ‘you can unleash your deepest, dirtiest desires’. Whatever that may mean for you, Meat also provides a massive play area for those who like their meat directly off the bone. Whether dancing or hooking up is your priority, Meat is undeniably an entertaining night out.
The number one Circuit “gear party” in not just NYC, but all of the US. By gear party they mean strap on a harness, some leather – or whatever other fetish gear you please – and dive right into the mass of bodies. However, casual attire is also accepted as long as you come dressed in a matching sexually liberated attitude. BRUT takes place all over the US, but it was born in the basements of NYC and indeed it returns there monthly. Just like the other Circuit Parties they host internationally renowned DJs and have stage performances dominated by hot beefy men to enjoy.
Horse Meat Disco
Another club with meat in the name, it could nonetheless not be more different from the aforementioned Circuit Party. Horse Meat Disco is an internationally famous pop-up party taking place in NYC during long weekends and holidays. The night was originally birthed in London but now also takes place in NYC's legendary Knockdown Centre – famous for extravagant art exhibitions and epic music concerts. Horse Meat Disco describes itself as ‘a queer party for everyone’ and indeed it has one of the most eclectic mix of attendees, ranging from muscle queens to drag queens to queers to goths. The music is disco, and the vibe is free from judgment fun, with both outdoor and indoor dancefloors to swing your meat to the beat on.
The Manhattan Monster
Conveniently placed right in front of the iconic Stonewall Inn this bar has a dirty secret in its basement: a surprisingly wild nightclub. Upstairs the famous bar is home to drag shows, cabaret and such, but take a trip down the mirrored staircase later at night and you’ll enter into a fun-fuelled – often packed – dance floor with go-go dancers and an eclectic mix of pop and dance hits being played. Not to mention that drag icon Lady Bunny DJs there from time to time. It really gets into its stride on Saturday nights, which host the Manster dance party all night long.
In theory a “gay sports bar”, but in practice a four-level gay hangout with a large – and underrated – dancefloor. Boxers HK is definitely a place to go partying as much as a place to hang out and watch sports. Men often go there to watch a sport’s game but after that head up to the first floor to dance and party or simply chill up on the balcony overlooking the dancefloor on the second floor. The bar/club has the additional positive of the hunky bar staff all being in their boxers – thus the name – which is most definitely a point in its favor.
Ok, it has bar in the name (‘rebar’ means a reinforcing bar) but the venue is so much more than that. Firstly, it’s huge and it holds some of the best parties in NYC, with something on every day of the week – making it the ideal locale for a cheeky mid-week night out. As well as the cabaret shows and jazz shows, Rebar transforms into a pop-dance club atmosphere later in the night with great music and a mixture of different types of men strutting their stuff – from circuit party boys to local twinks.
Hardwire is another bar, which is more like a club. If there can be any doubt of its club credentials though, then the pop music blasting dancefloor shrouded in the mists of a fog machine, should dispel them. Found in central NYC in Hell’s Kitchen, Hardware gets its name from the building which houses it, which was once an actual hardware store. The décor still maintains the store’s grungy feel to it that is characteristically New York. More importantly though are the cheap drinks, great DJs, attractive – albeit – younger crowd and its late-night license seven days a week.
The Ritz Bar & Lounge
The last of the bars that are basically clubs, The Ritz is the place to be for Latino men and their admirers. Located right in the heart of Devil’s Kitchen, it has two floors, both with spacious dance floors – the ground floor playing house music and the upstairs hip-hop and reggaeton. It has its own timelessly cool vibe and as New York changes around it, it remains the bastion of fun it has always been. The bar staff are also extremely friendly and generous in their pouring habits with the spirits.
Beneath the hustle and bustle of the big apple the soul of the club kid scene not only lives on but thrives. Held monthly on a Sunday, Battle Hymn is perhaps the largest gathering of queer people keeping the club kid spirit alive. The brainchild of nightlife personality Lady Fag – called “the nightlife sorceress” by the NY Times – the club originally took part in an abandoned church but now rotates location. Battle Hymn is a house music driven night of explosive creativity, being a place for people to express themselves however they choose – be that through extravagant costumes or simply a harness, truly anything goes. The legendary model Amanda Lepore is even a regular attendant, amongst other club kid alumni. Battle Hymn is a manicured finger up the rear of those who claim New York has lost its nightlife sparkle.
Held in one of the coolest venues in NYC, The House of Yes – an artistically painted building with the word ‘yes’ splayed across it – Bad Behaviour is a monthly party aimed at a diverse queer crowd. In short, it is a theater-infused club night where you’ll see drag queens, pole dancers and burlesque performers dancing alongside attendees from every letter in the LGBTQ+ spectrum – all coated in glitter and dressed up in anything they damn well want. DJs play a refreshingly diverse mix of music, albeit with an electro and techno focus, spun by famously cool DJs, such as JD Samson from Le Tigre.
With these clubbing options available to you in New York, the night is always as young as you want it to be.