The Deep Gay South

Gay Bars Around The Deep South, Honey You Ain't in Atlanta Anymore. Time to put on the accent, Old Spice, Levi's and Hanes Tee Shirt.

Sometimes you have to leave the big gay meccas to appreciate what you have. So over the past year I've been out and about sampling gay bars in smaller places around the South. My adventures took me to Birmingham, Nashville, Chattanooga and Panama City. On the surface there are big differences in these places from gay Atlanta but I found the people to be mostly the same. So if you ever feel a little bored with the nightlife here then take a weekend trip and sample queer life on a smaller scale.

My opinions are all based on what would be considered an average Saturday night in each city.

Quest (Birmingham)
412 24th Street South
Birmingham, Al.
- Given that Quest is a 24 hour club it draws a late crowd. It is located in the southern end of downtown in an industrial area. In Atlanta most bars will have an off duty cop working security at the door here though two cops worked the inside of the club. That was a little unsettling to have cops wandering around the club wearing badges and guns. It took a little fun out of the place. The dance area is tiny but they do have a patio. We love our patios in Atlanta so it was nice to have one at Quest. Though this is a gay club the crowd did have a few straights meandering around. Ages ranged from 18 to 60s. The club is relatively small, think Heretic but a few feet smaller with an L-shaped layout. You enter into the bar/gaming area, walk through the dance floor and then out onto a depressing patio completely walled off from the outside. The crowd was found, everyone friendly enough and seemed to know one another. I do advise if you go don't tell people you are from out of town. I made that mistake a few times and each time I was hit up for drugs or wanted to know if I'd like to make a buy. So just tell folks you are from Anniston or something and not Atlanta.

Images (Chattanooga)
6005 Lee Highway
Chattanooga, TN
- In a word it is small with only one bar. It offers an odd mix of a drag show and a couple of go go dancers. Images sits out on a suburban four lane highway near the airport. The crowd ranged from a few twenty year olds to men and women in their fifties. The crowd seemed very regular and everyone knew each other. Being an out of towner I sort of felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb but I didn't mind all that much. It only meant that more eyes would be on me than a regular night. The staff and patrons were very friendly and welcoming. If you are ever stuck in Chattanooga or need something to do after going to the Tennessee Aquarium then pay Images a visit.

Play (Nashville)
1519 church street
Nashville, Tn 37203
- The most comparable to an Atlanta level bar out of all the ones I toured. It has four bars, a performance area, a massive dance floor and a comfortable lounge area. The crowd is 18 and up, spirited and friendly. I had a great time here and felt very much at home. The music was current high energy and dance anthems. It has a good lighting system and you'd never know you weren't in Atlanta if you didn't see all the new and hot faces. Play is like what WETbar could be without the big city attitude and the high cover charge. I enjoyed Play enough that I'd go back to Nashville just to go to this bar again if for no other reason.

Fiesta Room (Panama City, Florida)
100 Harrison Ave
Panama City, FL 32401
- You enter Fiesta through the backdoor with a sign warning you that this is a gay establishment. That gives a clue as to what it must be like to be gay in a small town. It has a strange layout with two bar areas with a courtyard in between. Here they have go go dancers on the bar and a drag show too. The bar is located away from the tourist areas of the beach and is instead in downtown Panama City. You have to hunt to find it. The crowd was a varying mix in age and generally younger than that of Splashbar (the other gay bar in town). It has a small dance floor that also serves as the stage for the drag show. The place is dark and little rundown but the staff was friendly. I heard prior to going that drugs were common here and from what I heard and saw I'd have to agree. This is a rough gay bar. I saw the doorman attacked by a guy with crutch. I've seen some fucked up shit but that ranks high on my list of fucked-up-ness. If you are ever in Panama City avoid the Fiesta Room go to Splashbar instead which is located on Thomas Drive near the beach.

My advice is that any time you find yourself in a new city is go find the local gay bar. It is good way to escape the tourist traps and gain a better perspective on what life is like there. Once you get past the culture shock you'll probably have a good time and find that queers are the same no matter the city.