In a city where dwellers inhale pollution and exhale complaint, it’s hard to take criticism of New York’s gay nightlife too seriously. But for years the dirge has continued to play, and it’s only a matter of time before mourners wear official black armbands—on the left side for dominant and the right for submissive, naturally—to denote their longing for a wilder time. This dearth of proper playgrounds has lonely Manhattanites attempting the unthinkable: a commute to Brooklyn after dark, on a weeknight if necessary. The L train runs both ways, and with the East Village just a stop or two away, Williamsburg has steadily developed its own gay nightlife beyond the Lorimer stop’s gay flagship, Metropolitan. Now, however, a constantly-blinking constellation of options pulls the boys into Brooklyn, reversing the tides and rewarding more intrepid voyagers with a fresh crop of old standbys—but knowing exactly where and when you’re going will make or break your night. Better do your homework.
259 Banker St
Fear not, this is the furthest you are liable to go on foot. Studio B offers possibly the biggest and best dancing opportunity for miles, which explains the thoroughly diverse crowd and the strange lions-caged-with-lambs sexual vibe. Greenpoint’s young Polish population mingles with hordes of unapologetic scenesters and dance-hungry gay dudes. But the club opens only for special shows and events, so if you don’t check their calendar you may stumble all the way there only to find their trapezoidal entrance shuttered and locked.
Click for more info on Studio B.
211 N 9th St
If a just-us-boys atmosphere is more your speed, then you’ll probably want to spend your Wednesday nights at Sugarland for a while. A safe enough bet on the weekends, the former home of Capone’s has lamentably lost its “free pizza” policy, but a quick de-pantsing will earn you a free drink and the appraisal of your fellow revelers. Attempts by most Manhattan nightspots to revive a bygone era are limited to hiring a few broke grad students to shuffle around on the bar in their man-panties, and while Sugarland doesn’t veer far from this tradition, the cheap drinks and isolated location add a Lynchian thrill to justify the commute to Bedford Ave. Besides, everything seems dirtier when you do it in Brooklyn.
Click for more info on Sugarland.
484 Union Ave
Do yourself a favor: look up Milksop Adventure on Myspace and add them as a friend, lest you risk missing out on the best every-now-and-then gay dance party in the neighborhood, in which Union Pool is temporarily wrested out of the hands of its shoe-gazing hetero crowd and delivered unto a grateful throng of hedonistic homos.
Click for more info on Union Pool.
536 Driggs Ave
I’ve heard campfire stories of a gay scene building at The Abbey for five years now, but I’ve yet too see photographic evidence. If you have any, please forward.
Click for more info on The Abbey.
Lorimer St btn Driggs and Bayard
In the daytime, the park functions as the neighborhood’s unofficial outdoor gay bar; if you feel silly hauling a blanket and a Frisbee all the way from Manhattan, remember that if the cruising goes well, you can always conveniently forget them at his place—a built-in excuse for more Brooklyn wayfaring.
Click for more info on McCarren Park
Until reports about the Abbey can be substantiated, the venerable Metropolitan will continue to reign as the only perfectly reliable watering-hole should all else fail, with rarely a slow night or dull moment (if it looks empty when you arrive, check the back patio: it’s usually floating in an swath of second-hand smoke).
Click for more info on Metropolitan.
Finally, a warning from a local who cares:
Know where you’re going before you leave, and travel safely, dammit. It doesn’t get more vanilla than the corner of Bedford and North 7th, but once you leave the main drag the streets are poorly lit and quasi-industrial, with only light foot-traffic. Williamsburg’s boom in affluence hasn’t outstripped its geographical remoteness, and it’s easy to wind up somewhere where you can’t find help or even a cab if you need it. Having personally escorted poor (drunk) lost lambs out of the recesses of my neighborhood and into the safety and thumping bass of their destinations, let me assure you that this neighborhood may hold the key to resurrecting New York City’s self-image as a gay destination any night of the week, but doesn’t suffer fools any more gladly than the Meat-Packing District in its heyday. Get a map, get a drink, get a boyfriend—in that order.