If you're headed for a night out and not sure where to go, why not check out San Antonio's gay bar scene? Calm down. This isn't Party Monster. It's not all glow sticks, house music and Molly. You can actually find some pretty sweet drink specials most nights of the week, and the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than you might expect. In a mile-long span of North Main Avenue called "the Strip," tucked behind San Antonio College, sits a string of gay bars and nightclubs: Essence, the Saint, Pegasus, Sparky's and Heat. The area used to be cluttered with older model homes and medical office buildings, but has recently been rededicated as Tobin Hill; and with the erection of the Tobin Lofts and expansion of SAC, North Main has become quite the contemporary urban hot spot.
It's not uncommon to walk in and see strippers hanging from the ceiling or spinning around the pole at Essence (1010 N. Main Ave.). Next to the dancing platform, there's even a shower they perform in. Think you've got what it takes? Win some extra money and enter the weekly amateur strip contest.
The Saint (800 Lexington Ave.) caters to the younger crowd with its amateur drag night and DJs who play a combination of EDM and dance remixes till 3 a.m. It and the Heat are the only two bars that allow minors.
Once a neighborhood dive, Pegasus (1402 N. Main Ave.) has evolved into a hip multiroom nightclub. The new courtyard bar hosts regular drag shows, and there's karaoke on the patio. Inside, there's a dedicated country bar and a leather bar — and we're not talking about the upholstery.
The newest of the gay bars is Sparky's (1416 N. Main Ave.), "an old English style pub," according to its website. You can sit at the bar top, chill on the patio, or duck into one of several booths and order a pint-sized well drink or draft beer and listen to the DJ. If you're not in the mood for neon lights and loud music, Sparky's also has a low-key wine bar and cafe. Enjoy a glass of red, white or the bubbly, grab some tapas and relax inside (separated from the main bar) or outside on the patio.
Heat (1500 N. Main Ave.) is probably the most posh of the bunch. The nightclub offers a dance floor-adjacent VIP area and bottle service for about $150. Like the Saint, Heat is 18 and up, hosts regular drag shows and the DJ plays until 3 a.m.
And if you're hungry, Luther's (1422 N. Main Ave.) is next door and has been slinging burgers in the neighborhood for over 60 years.