The best of Beijing's LGBT nights

Our roundup of the capital’s coolest queer nightlife

Bars and clubs

Adam's


adams


Many, Time Out included, were worried that this balls-to-bones queer hangout wouldn’t survive the whims of fickle Sanlitun. Last year, ambitious impresario and proprietor Mondo Wong was the first in Beijing to suspend a rainbow flag over his bar, and, astonishingly, it has fluttered proudly ever since, surviving the move to a much bigger venue opposite Page One on Sanlitun Bar Street.


Adam’s is the archetypal gay bar at its most raw and rambunctious, its environs echoing a simpler time when stubbly drag queens and lithe, boyish bartenders would sass the night away in a cloistered, safe space. The colour scheme is garish, the drinks unapologetically froofy, and the crowd changes week to week. The lynchpin that makes all this work, and work beautifully, is the friendliness and warmth of the staff – charming boys and girls, hand-picked and trained by Wong himself, who make punters feel welcome upon arrival with beaming smiles. Whether you wish to sip a beer in a quiet corner or strip to the waist and take the stage, nobody is judging. Lee, the unbelievably buff yet graceful male pole dancer, is a must-see on weekends.



Destination


destination

Oh, if these sweat-stained walls could speak! Des, as old timers affectionately call her, has, like smog, jianbing and gruff taxi drivers, been around forever. Opened over a decade ago, this resilient, reactionary and still revved-up nightspot continues to draw the biggest weekend crowds in the city thanks to a combination of familiarity, dirt-cheap drinks deals and genuinely excellent DJs.


Since Funky’s closure in June, Des is once again the only dedicated Monday to Sunday gay rodeo in town, and numbers have swelled to epic proportions as it has absorbed its former arch-rival’s overspill (though half the punters continue to avoid the cover charge by rocking up after 3am). It’d be a mistake to cut that particular corner, though: the 100RMB entry ticket includes a free drink and a front-row seat for the gogo boys, these days of the buff, bearded Japanese variety (Des is nothing if not on-trend). There’s also a BOGOF happy hour from 9-10pm on Sundays and Thursdays. No gay old time in Beijing is complete without a dip into Des. Just avoid the sofas if you’re wearing hot pants.



Kai Bar



Brace yourself, wary traveller, for here be dragons. A byword for Bacchanalian excess, Kai has endured demolitions, relocations and multiple dancefloor cat-fights to emerge like a grubby butterfly as the hostelry of choice of Beijing’s younger, crazier queer crowd. Underage embassy kids, awkward local students, leering rubberneckers and all the shady bitches in between congregate here at weekends to juice up on cheap cocktails and gyrate on the tables, on the chairs – wherever there’s space.


Dress down, arrive late and surround yourself with good company, and you can have one of the best nights out in town for a third of what you’d pay at any of the venues nearby – at weekends the room is particularly cruise-worthy.



Theme nights


Glam


glam


Glam (Good-looking Asian Male), brainchild of androgynous nightlife whiz-kid Marlon Ma, has been reborn in the well-appointed environs of Long Jing in the heart of Sanlitun, and is quickly becoming Beijing’s classiest social for suited-and-booted LGBT schmoozers. Those worn out by the electronica and excess of alternative gay nights will find cool relief by the glass, and while the drinks aren’t cheap (70RMB for a crisp gin and tonic), they’re all two-for-one.


The crowd is welcoming and diverse, ranging from white-shirted office workers to cardigan-clad European matrons, and while the ambience is elegant (there’s a giant Iberian ham behind the bar, for goodness sake!), the classic disco soundtrack and dependable clutch of regulars means that folks loosen up as the night wears on and heels are kicked off. At the heart of it all is Ma himself, fluttering between each and every patron and saving his warmest welcome for any new faces. In just a few months, Glam has become the place to be seen.So go and be seen, already!


Long Jing. Glam open 9pm-2am Thursdays only.



GLIFAA Happy Hour


Since 1992, GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) has been bringing together expatriates working in the diplomatic service and related fields for the purposes of activism, networking and, more recently, socialising. GLIFAA’s Beijing contingent have got the latter down pat, and their immensely popular migratory monthly mixer takes over one high-end venue each month, providing an instant, well-dressed social circle for queer expatriates and their friends and partners.


Of particular interest to those recently posted to Beijing, or those likely to be around for a while, the ever-changing nature of the night keeps it fresh, and the sense of bubbly internationalism is delightful. BOGOF bevvies of the extremely classy variety (martinis, champagne and fine wines – these are diplomats, after all) sweeten the melting pot. Wear your good shoes.


GLIFAA Happy Hour, locations vary. Open 7pm-late, second Thursday of every month. For details, and to join the WeChat group, email glifaabeijing@gmail.com.



Les Booze


les booze


Now the undisputed queen of the capital’s lala nights (and winner of two Time Out Bar and Club Awards), Les Booze makes the most of its cosy courtyard location to bring together ladies who love ladies from all walks of life. Open mic and karaoke are firm favourites with the mixed and mellow crowd (some grade-A talents regularly appear), but the partitioned, warmly lit space lends itself to relaxed conversation as much as show-stopping performances.


All ages, races and backgrounds rub shoulders summer and winter (the outside seating is rammed when it’s warm), and the addition of a second installment each month is testament to the growing popularity of this cheery, welcoming mixer. Expect a big influx of gals after 10pm, few of whom will drift away before daybreak, and if the floor show doesn’t keep you anchored to the bar, the drinks deals will – Tsingtao and Tiger are 15RMB, margaritas 30RMB, and there’s a colourfully named shots menu for the daring.


Chill Bar. Les Booze open 9am-late, first Friday and third Saturday of every month.



Café



Two Cities


Beijing’s day scene may not be as fecund as its nightlife, but Two Cities, a delightfully cosy café and exhibition space in Fangjia Hutong has, for half a decade, offered a welcome, secluded corner to write that feminist treatise or take that shy new date. An afternoon vanishes when one sinks into a low-slung sofa with a cup of something organic and spellbindingly fragrant – some of the finest, purest Chinese teas in the city can be found here, at reassuringly expensive prices (starting from 60RMB a pot).


The Taiwanese owners have filled their venue with mementoes of their homeland, and a small shop also sells a variety of responsibly sourced delicacies and knick-knacks from the island, including trinkets made by LGBT social organisations and sealed foil bags of the house teas. Drip-brewed Taiwanese and Southeast Asian coffees were also recently added to the menu, though our top recommendation is still the homemade cheesecake.

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