LGBT people have met and socialised in dozens of pubs and clubs in Bristol over the years. We’ve listed known venues by approximate date of opening (up to circa 2000 – more recent venues will be added later).
Click on names for more details.
You can help with additions and corrections. Tell us about the places you visited. When did you go? (precise years if you can). Who managed them? Did they have cabaret, live music, DJ, karaoke, pub quizzes? Who were the regulars – gay men, lesbians, TV/TS? Tell us amusing anecdotes and about the characters who propped up the bar. Do you have old photos we can beg or borrow?
- Moulin Rouge: 72 Worrall Road, Clifton, BS8. Circa 1970 – October 1976.
First openly gay club in Bristol following the legalization of male homosexuality in England & Wales in 1967.
- King’s: 17 Prince Street. 1975 – c. late 1970s?
Large club on three floors. Sold and reopened as Smith’s in about 1978.
- Oasis: 14-16 Park Row, Bristol, BS. 1973 – 1991.
Bristol’s major gay club for men until the 1990s.
- 49 Club (later the Top Deck): 20 Christmas Steps, central Bristol, BS1. c. 1977 – c. 1996/7.
Small upstairs bar at the bottom of Christmas Steps.
- Chantelle’s: 135 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, BS8. 1977-1982?
A lesbian club from about 1977 to 1982.
- The Scarlet Coat: 19a Union Street (basement entrance at 1 Fiennes Court off Fairfax Street), BS1. c. 1984-90
Small lesbian club near Broadmead shopping centre.
- Queen’s Shilling: 9 Frogmore Street, BS1. 1992 – present.
Opening in 1992 the Queen’s Shilling quickly attracted a new crowd of gay teens and 20s.
- Flamingo Joe’s / Club Leo: 28 St Nicholas Street, BS1. 1993 – c.1998?
A big dance club situated in the gap between two former gay venues, the Radnor Hotel and the Elephant.
- Just: 19a Union Street (basement entrance at 1 Fiennes Court off Fairfax Street), BS1. 1994-9
Gay men’s club in the former Scarlet Coat premises.
- Winn’s: 23-25 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2. 1999- ?
Opened in Autumn 1999 in former bank premises, one of the first clubs in the newly gay Old Market area.
- Vibes: Vibes, 1 Frog Lane. 2001 – c.2009.
A big club and popular from the start, attracting mixed age groups. Later re-opened as OMG.
- Flamingos: 23-25 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2. 2007-?
Located in the same building as the earlier Winn’s, Flamingos was the principal night club in Bristol’s Old Market quarter.
Jane recalls lesbian discos in the 1980s:
Until the Scarlet Coat opened in the mid/late 1980s, there were various venues where women’s discos were held. Sometimes they were once a week or month – or they were occasional. The first I remember was on Wednesday nights at Roxy’s in Fairfax Street (see above). I remember another after a ‘Reclaim the Night’ march at a back room behind the Coach and Horses pub on Stapleton Rd. Some were held at St Werburgh’s Community Centre on Horley Rd. The Folk House was a regular venue for a spell. Then there was ‘The Rockpile’ at Temple Quay – before the building it was in was demolished to make way for the office blocks and flats there now. The discos were organised and run by the Women’s Disco Collective – Alison, Jenny and Julia. When they decided to pack it in, they gave all their records to two younger women who took it over when a new venue was found at the Parkside Hotel on Bath Road.
- Radnor Hotel: 30 St Nicholas Street, BS1. c. 1925? – c. 1976.
Known to have been gay in 1938 and possibly much earlier. The only gay pub in Bristol we know of before the 1970s.
- Ship: Redcliffe Hill c. 1965-8.
Peggy Hancock’s regulars from the Radnor Hotel followed her to the The Ship when she opened the disused rear snug as a cocktail bar about 1965.
- Ship Inn: 7-8 Lower Park Row, Bristol, BS1 5BJ. c. 1973-7?
A popular gay pub during the 1970s.
- Elephant: 20 St Nicholas Street. May 1973 – 2006.
For many years the principal pub for gay men and lesbians.
- Griffin: 41 Colston Street, BS1. 1987 – 2010.
Small Victorian pub on a quirky triangular site; gay from 1987 to 2010.
- Pineapple: 37 St George’s Road, BS1. 1997 – present.
The third gay pub in the Frogmore Street area, opening in Spring 1997.
- Velindra, Commercial Road, BS1 6TH (early 1980s – mid 1990s?)
A small Victorian pub next door to Bristol General Hospital and Bathurst Basin, it attracted a mixed crowd when it was run by Shirley and later by a lesbian couple.
Other gay and gay-friendly venues
There have been many gay-friendly/mixed pubs, short-lived pubs, and straight clubs which ran occasional gay one-nighters.
- The Greyhound, 32 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, BS8 4BZ
Home in the 1960s and ‘70s to an extrovert crowd of theatrical queens and their friends who would gather in the back bar for some fairly drunken parties. The friends included a young (straight) restaurateur then cooking up a storm in Clifton, by the name of Keith Floyd.
- The Old Duke, King Street, Bristol, BS1 4ER
Bristol’s most famous jazz pub. For a couple of years c. 1973-5 it became a popular gay venue when the Radnor ceased to be gay.
- Bristol’s, 4 Broad Quay, BS1 4DA (city centre).
Held on the first floor of Dunlop’s pub (near the Baldwin Street corner and the Sedan Chair pub). Bristol’s began as an experimental gay night on Tuesdays. After a hugely successful gay New Year’s Eve party (1974/5) it ran as a full-time gay club for a short time.
- The British Queen, Wilson Street, St Paul’s, Bristol.
A short-lived Thursday night spot for women during the 1970s called the BQ Bar Club.
- The Bunch of Grapes, St Nicholas Street, BS1 1UE
Now named Seamus O’Donnells. Reputedly gay friendly during the 1970s or 1980s.
- Roxy’s, Fairfax Street, Bristol.
A straight club which ran a gay one-nighter on Wednesdays for women during the early 1980s. The door was in the part of Fairfax Street which is now in the tunnel under the Galleries car park. Inside there were stairs leading to a big room with a bar, disco and large dance floor. These discos were women only, and although the majority who went were lesbians, straight women went too as it was somewhere they could have a dance without being pestered.
- The Bridge Inn, Passage Street, St Philip’s, Bristol, BS2 0JF. (c. 1980s)
Run by Wilf and Philip after they left the Ship Inn. The pub was never overtly gay and the majority of customers were locals tolerant of the occasional more obviously gay drinker. Wilf, the older, was in a wheelchair by the late 1980s. His partner Philip, who was probably in his late 40s, contracted cancer and died fairly quickly. Wilf gave up the pub and retired.
- Princess of Wales, British Road/Westbourne Grove, Bedminster, BS3 3LQ
Listed as gay-friendly in Gay Times, 1980s.
- Arnos Court Hotel / Parkside Hotel (now Arnos Manor Hotel), 470 Bath Road, Arnos Vale, Bristol, BS4 3HQ.
Held occasional (monthly?) women’s discos in the 1990s. It also once ran Sunday night gay discos called ‘Poppers’ in the Cabaret Room.
- The Quadrant, 2 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, BS8 4BP
Discreetly mixed/gay for awhile (late 1990s?) – thought to have been run by a gay landlord.
- Eldon House, 6 Lower Clifton Hill, Clifton, BS8 1BT.
This charming small pub just off Jacob Well Road was gay run for a time (early 2000s?) and had popular weekly quizzes.
- Wonky was a monthly disco that was marketed as an alternative to the established Bristol scene. It started in November 2003. In May 2011 it moved to Basement 45 Club, 8 Frogmore St, BS1 5NA. It ceased circa 2014.
Gay saunas and sex clubs
Saunas that were run as places where men could have sex with other men are known to have existed in the Bristol region since the 1970s. For legal reasons they usually operated as private clubs and membership would be bought on arrival for a fee.
Up until the end of the 1980s gay saunas in Britain were routinely raided by police under public decency laws. With less concern about victimless crime during the 1990s, police increasingly ‘turned a blind eye’. They preferred sexual activity to take place in a contained environment rather than outdoors even though technically users were still committing the offence of gross indecency.
Sex between adults in non-public spaces ceased to be an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and a variety of sex venues and fetish events developed. They differ from brothels in that they provide a place where patrons have sex with each other and, apart from an entrance fee, no money changes hands.
- Sauna Services: St Paul Street, off Portland Square, Bristol, BS2. Mid 1970s to mid 1980s.
First gay sauna in Bristol.
- The Pump House, 1 Pump Street, Newport, Gwent. Approx 1977 to 1982.
Popular sauna for gay men from Bristol and much further afield.
Last updated: 30/7/2023
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