I wanna take you to a gay bar! I wanna take you to a gay bar!
I wanna take you to a gay bar, gay bar, gay bar!
Remember that Electric Six song? Anyone? ...Anyone?
Ahem. Here's a big list of Shanghai gay bars, gay bars, gay bars you can check out. You've got the classics (Eddy's, Lai Lai) on through to the newer, deeper cuts (Telephone 6). We. Are. Family. Oh, should have just gone with that song.
Eddy’s is Shanghai longest-running gay establishment. It is a bar in the strictest sense of the word, with some of the friendliest, most non-invasive staff around. The square bar area is good for getting attention and swapping WeChats, while the table areas are usually taken up by groups of friends out to discuss weekend plans, relationship quandaries, and general life and philosophy. That is, when the music isn’t too loud (and it can be, sometimes). It's more subdued than other venues. The dim perimeter lighting and swivel chairs that have a mind of their own add an almost seedy character to the place. It is a sincere establishment and people mingle more freely late into the evening as more drinks are consumed. Not the best place for a date, but excellent if you are in the mood for a venue without pretense, or sweaty shirtless hunks rubbing up against you. Standard pours go for 50rmb.
Lucca (formerly known as 390) is smack in the middle of Shanghai’s gayborhood. It's a stone’s throw from Happiness, gay friendly Celia, and Telephone 6, which is just upstairs. You’ll see this place immediately from the mass of gay men spilling out onto Panyu Lu soaked in sweat, and some in tears. It is Shanghai’s meat market, with a strong laowai presence. It is where men throw hungry eyes at each other in the circular bar room and take off their shirts in the adjoining dance area. They’ve got a small, cruisey upstairs area with seats, but you won’t find too many people chilling up there since it’s small. They also have a long booth area between the bar and a dance floor where faghags are sobering up and pouty gays are waiting for their lost boyfriends. Drag shows, scantily clad muscle boy bar men, and pole dancing are to be expected amidst mediocre raging gay-techno.
One of Shanghai's only lesbian bars, dimly lit bar/lounge space Roxie arrived in 2015 via a Dutch gal who goes by Ting Ting, who also owns metal bar Inferno. During the week, Roxie is a chill spot for relaxing and conversing with friends, but on the weekend it tends to get packed with a bit of dancing once people have enough drinks. The place isn't huge, so it can get pretty intimate. As a lesbian bar, it has a nice mix of genders, and has been the only lala bar where boys are welcome as well. It’s in a great location, with The Shed just across the street and Uva not too far away. Cocktails run 45rmb for a rum and coke to 75rmb for a Long Island, and bartenders are well trained.
4. Happiness 42
Like Lucca, this small spot comes to us from the owners of the former underground gay bastion Shanghai Studio. Unlike that dungeon of pleasure, Happiness 42 goes for a modern chic style with red lighting and a round bar in the main room that's excellent for throwing provocative glances to whatever eye candy may be across from you. On Fridays and Saturdays, the place fills up with a mix of foreigners and locals chatting at the bar, dancing to gay-tunes on the small dance floor, or just chilling at the tables. They have an open mic night on Thursdays and also host community events from time to time.
5. Lai Lai Dance Hall
In gaydom, this place is a historical landmark for China’s underground, closeted scene. Way up in Hongkou, Lai Lai is a dance hall in a shabbier part of Shanghai. It screams local in every aspect, and is dominated by middle-aged men. Your only drink option here is Qingdao and they aren’t always cold, but people don't come here for drinking. This is an escape, where men enjoy each other’s company dancing to light jazz bits and way-back-when Teresa Teng songs. It's all very innocent in nature, with regular clients helping to break the ice by readily asking newcomers for a dance. You can read more about the place in our feature article.
The guys who run this massive club are circuit clubbers who got their start at Homebar (which, together with Eddy’s, started the entire scene). For a long time, they rented out straight clubs like Obama, Dubai, and what's now Arkham to host gay parties called Angel. Now, they have their own permanent venue inside the Shanghai Indoor Stadium in Xujiahui. Clientele is primarily local, with the occasional rice queens here and there. The music is standard house and techno. Flashing strobe lights, pulsating music from a deafening sound system, and heavy handed drink pours make for a fun night, but not one that will happen often unless you’re good at convincing your expat gay crew to venture out that way for just dancing. Conversation is generally not on the menu here. Drinks start around 35rmb.
7. Telephone 6
British-themed gay bar with a maze of private rooms, some cheeky glory holes, and a neighborhood vibe. This is an excellent place for an evening tryst or some one-on-one conversation. Telephone 6 doesn’t fill up as often as it ought to, but this is a blessing in disguise for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of Lucca, which is just downstairs. The backrooms offer additional privacy and the bar has some decent cocktails. Overall, a good place to relax and "enjoy".