When it comes to tastes in nightlife, Nashville’s LGBT community and its allies are diverse as Nashville’s ever-expanding populace. From the tourist draws of Broadway to the dive bars that dot our neighborhoods, there are any number of LGBT friendly options. And from the Church Street Gayborhood, which hosts Tribe, Play, Canvas, and Blue Gene’s to Stirrup and Traxx on the 2nd /4th Avenue Corridor and East Nashville staple Lipstick Lounge, Nashville’s small group of LGBT bars have strong and diverse followings of loyal regulars.
Nashville’s nightlife is constantly changing, and the coming year will bring more change, as Blue Gene’s closes—its owners opening a new location soon—and Stirrup begins its first full year under new ownership. But Nashville remains loyal to its favorites, and there is little doubt that much will remain, thankfully, the same.
Bartender—Maggie Prater, Lipstick Lounge
This year, as last, Lipstick Lounge saw wins in a lot of different categories, and one of its most familiar faces scored a big win this year, as O&AN’s readers chose Maggie Prater as this year’s top bartender. Prater’s own story is tightly knit with that of her bar: “Want to hear a joke? An awkward 18-year- old walks into a bar and asks ‘You need a bar back?’ Okay, so, I lied… There's no punchline. But, for twelve years now, Lipstick has been my home. Christa and Jonda have treated me as their own kid since day one and instilled in me the philosophy that any good bar is one where you can walk in and be who you are.” So if you haven’t been, go down to Lipstick and let Maggie make you a drink and show you what that means!
Bartender Finalists—Timmy Harkum (Stirrup) & Joey Newkirk (Play)
This year’s field was a strong one—both of this year’s runners up have been featured bartenders in past years’ reader polls. Timmy Harkum, formerly owner of Stirrup and now a regular bartender there, and Joey Newkirk, one of Play Dance Bar’s favorites, were strong contenders again this year.
Lipstick Lounge’s karaoke nights are legendary. The drink specials are plentiful, the crowd is generally high-energy, and bar owner Jonda Valentine—who has been a professional singer—is legendary for throwing in a few numbers. Check them out on Facebook and head down to join the show!
Place to Dance – Play Dance Bar
Year after year, O&AN readers continue to vote Play Dance Bar as the best place to dance in Nashville, and there’s a reason, the venue has a great bar staff, top notch drag entertainers, and a group of DJs and VJs that know exactly what the crowd wants. And it goes without saying that there aren’t a whole lot of 18-and- up dance bars that are close to major campuses. Special guests, including nearly every cast member of RuPaul’s Drag Race, often leave lines down the block, and special events, like Student Bodies competitions and post-Pride foam parties, keep Play near the top of the list of places to party.
Disk Jockey – Deejay Phil
This twenty-six year veteran disk jockey is a Nashville staple, and has won favorite in this category more often than not in the last few years. Phil’s career has carried him from 176 Underground in the 1990s to The Chute, and after a break to Tribe and Play. His career in music also included a long stint at Tower Records. And after three decades in the clubs, Nashville audiences still can’t get enough of him.
Drag Queen – The Princess
Anyone who follows drag in Nashville is familiar with The Princess, who featured prominently on Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and who became one of Play’s Showgirls shortly thereafter. She was also featured on the September 2014 cover of O&AN. The Princess an audience favorite at Play, often drawing tips rivaling those given to special guests with her striking looks and fan-favorite numbers. If you’re curious about drag and haven’t seen her perform, or if you haven’t been to Play in a while and just need to catch up, choose a night the Princess is performing and head out to the club for the best show in town.
Drag King – Jordan Allen
This year’s favorite drag king is Jordan Allen. It’s not Allen’s first time at the top of this category, and a brief survey of his achievements, and his community involvement, explain why. Most recently, Allen has been involved in activities and causes as diverse as drag pageantry and transgender activism. Allen has also been involved in fundraising events, such as Play Dance Bar’s benefit show for the victims of the Orlando Pulse attack.
Happy Hour – Tribe
Year in and year out, Tribe remains our favorite happy hour. This year, Tribe remains the place to go for drink specials—and especially drink specials and show tunes—whether it’s after work on Wednesday or Sunday after church, on Church.
Overall Bar – Lipstick Lounge
For a second year in a row, Lipstick Lounge, one of East Nashville’s favorite neighborhood establishments, has carried this category. With its a homey atmosphere, fantastic food, beloved bar staff, and karaoke and theme nights, Lipstick has something to offer almost everyone.
LGBT Friendly — 3 Crow
East Nashville favorite 3 Crow, an easy walk for many who live in the LGBT-friendly enclave, could sometimes be mistaken for a gay bar, especially if you wander in after Hot Mess, or the Grizzlies, have descended after a game or practice. It’s a local and reader favorite, and if you’ve never been, you should check it out.