Palm Beach County’s LGBT scene doesn’t get much buzz. Ads in the gay press are few and far between, as is the coverage. But there are a few chill hangouts that can hold their own against hot spots farther south in places such as Wilton Manors.
“We might not be labeled as a LGBT hot spot, but we have a thriving community,” says Julie Seaver, executive director of Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center for Palm Beach County. “Palm Beach County is the largest county in the state of Florida. People who are moving out of Wilton Manors … are coming here. But Palm Beach County does get left out a little bit. And I’m OK with that — less traffic and less of a wait at my favorite restaurant.”
Here is a list of gay bars and gay-friendly restaurants in Boca Raton, Lake Worth, Lantana and West Palm Beach.
H.G. Rooster’s has been been in business for more than 34 years, making the West Palm Beach institution the longest-running gay bar in Florida. That could be the reason why, over the years, Rooster’s has cultivated a very diverse crowd, both gay and straight. The full-service bar’s most popular night is Saturday, when a drag show is hosted by Melissa St. John, The youngest crowd shows up on Fridays, when the “Lip Sync Battle” competition offers a $100 cash prize. “Wine Down Wednesdays” includes specials on bottles of wine and live music
Fort Dix Bar and Club
Originally called Kozlows, the bar now known as Fort Dix has been in West Palm Beach for 30 years. The full-service bar serves discounted drinks every day from noon to 7:30 p.m. On Tuesdays, domestic beer buckets cost $12. On “Happy Hump Day Wednesday,” domestics cost $2. On Fridays, Fort Dix has a DJ spinning current hits and golden oldies. A leather night is held on the fourth Saturday of the month in a partnership with Palm Beach Leather Men.
The Mad Hatter Lounge
Celebrating its sixth anniversary this month, the Mad Hatter draws an eclectic crowd including Lake Worth’s gay community, but also neighborhood residents and employees of other Lake Worth restaurants and bars. Karaoke is offered from 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays. An “In the Biz” discount is available Mondays, with 20 percent off your bill if you work in a bar, nightclub or restaurant (male dancers also entertain starting at 10 p.m.). On “$2 Tuesdays,” well drinks, draft beers and domestic beers cost $2 from 7 p.m. to close. Wednesdays feature bingo starting at 8 p.m. Mad Hatter holds a monthly birthday celebration for people born that month. The day changes every month, so just ask. Theme parties take place throughout the year, with the biggest being the annual Lei Me Luau, a fundraiser for Compass GLCC. The bar’s anniversary celebration will include a pot-luck dinner starting at 4 p.m. Nov. 10.
Penny’s at the Duke
902 N. Dixie Highway, Lantana; 561-318-7359 or Facebook.com/PennysAtTheDuke
“When it comes to Penny’s bar, it’s really tough, because everyone assumes it’s the lesbian bar,” says Seaver of the Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center. “But it is the lesbian-owned bar.” This relative newcomer to Palm Beach County’s LGBTQ scene has an old pedigree. The Duke has been around since 1946, and the straight crowd who frequented it remain loyal customers. In 2013, Penny Johnson bought the bar and rechristened it with the new name by adding the decorative touch of 9,000 pennies ensconced in urethane. Tuesday nights feature Drag Bingo with RaeJean Cox. Currently on Thursdays, a pool tournament begins at 7:30 p.m. (and football on the big screens starts at 8 p.m.). Fridays and Sundays are karaoke, or as it’s known at Penny’s, “Jackieoke” with Jacqie Jackson.
Sunset Bar and Grill
This eatery in the historic and chic Northwood Village in West Palm Beach is gay-owned. The restaurant serves great sandwiches and wraps, but insiders will tell you to not miss the soups.
Table 26º Palm Beach
During season, it’s a little tricky to get a reservation at this fashionable, gay-owned restaurant, which draws the trendy downtowners of West Palm Beach as well as the posh peeps of Palm Beach (owners and partners Eddie Schmidt and Ozzie Madeiros are huge philanthropists). The menu is American contemporary, so there are dishes for every taste, including seafood, chicken, steaks, lamb and burgers.
This gay-owned restaurant is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Fans enjoy the Italian fare divided into classic and/or contemporary categories, as well as the metered parking lot next door. Parking in downtown Lake Worth can be a challenge, especially on weekends.