Are you a star in South Florida’s gay nightclub universe, or are you merely an alien passing through? Gay South Florida is a vast, and at times, unwieldy galaxy with several worlds spinning in chaotic orbits. Planet Hip-Hop thumps down-low style alongside glamorama drag. Fashionista twinks clink drinks with straight-acting Cuban cowboys. There’s leather world, attitude atmospheres, muscle-bound supernovas, wacked-out black holes, and of course, Planet Botox. Anything is bound to happen in SoFla’s glittery gay vastness. Slip into your moonboots, spike up that faux hawk, and get ready to explore.
The charm of Twist, the sprawling, storied Miami Beach gay nightclub is its predictability. On any given night you’ll: a) get sloshed b) make out with an out-of-towner c) meet an interesting stranger or d) all of the above. After all, Twist is not only the longest-running gay bar on Miami Beach, it’s gay Miami’s ground zero, the roux in Miami’s gay gumbo. The bar’s one-syllable name communicates the same thing whether uttered by a sunburned Eurotrash visitor or a hunky Venezuelan college student. Twist means trouble – the good kind of trouble, that is. Heavy on out-of-towners and local gym rats, the scene at Twist cultivates a no-strings-attached synergy in its best moments. At worst, Twist can mean DRAMA. So proceed with caution.
Still, a funky gay spectrum freely inhabits Twist’s nocturnal universe. Everyone, from earnest trannies to old geezers to hip hop brothers, is in the house. Stripper boys in their skivvies work the bungalow bar all night and, in the upstairs rooms, hip-hop and electro house rule. Thursday nights are a good night to get your bearings in the Miami’s gay scene as Twist liquors you up with two-for-one drink specials until 3 a.m.
Twist, 1057 Washington Ave., South Beach; 305-538-9478. twistsobe.com
Everyone seems to be talking about Halo, a newish gay nightspot on South Beach that is fast becoming the place to be spotted. The bar makes a streamlined fashion-forward statement with a spa-like aesthetic instead of drinking and disco dive. Pricey drinks made with top-shelf liquors are mixed with fresh ingredients like pomegranate juice, ginger, and acai, and the smoke-free room with softly pulsing lights underscores the seemingly healthy Chesea-boy-meets-urban-zen vibe. Halo’s less-is-more sensibility will alienate party boys with a fierce Liberace streak, so leave the flashy stuff at home and show up in distressed jeans, designer t-shirts and flip-flops. Bring your best conversation skills and try to look skinny, because the boys at Halo put a lot of work into appearing fit. If you’re flabby or just plain fashion challenged, you might be relegated to outskirts of this particular universe.
Halo Lounge, 1625 Michigan Ave., South Beach; 305-534-8181. haloloungemiami.com
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, Miami’s gay club scene was defined by a wild unfettered suburban Latino crowd. Loud shirts, he-man moustaches, and a bit of honcho paunch drew a rebellious line in the sand against the hard-bodied glam that South Beach’s Warsaw Ballroom brought to the mix back in the day. Club Sandals has stepped in to fill the platform shoes of those fun-loving over-the-top gay latino dance joints of days gone by. Be ready to cut loose with the men who go to Sandals to dance for hours on end. They get down beneath a mirrored ceiling and salsa, samba, or strut to reggaeton, diva pop, or Santeria Latin-house (very intense). If you’re not sweating in Sandals, chances are, you’re trying too hard to look good, and it’s not going to get you anywhere. Go-go boys work a stripper pole in the back room, and drag divas Adora and Marytrini host late-night drag shows with featured guests on Saturdays. When you’re ready to cut loose and connect with genuine Latin roots (yours or somebody else’s) – this is the place to be.
Sandals, 1060 NE 79 St., Miami. sandalclub.com
The quintessential gay disco experience lives on at Fort Lauderdale’s Coliseum. This is the place where twinks, drag queens and bears (oh my!) go for boozy late-night revelry on a giant dance floor. Even snobby South Beach party boys make the 30-mile trek to dive into this throbbing gay party milieu. Luminary guest DJs keep the flame alive behind the decks, and on stage, drag performers Erika Norell, TP Lords and Mizz Cori maximize the mayhem.
Coliseum, 2520 South Miami Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-832-0100. Coliseumnightclub.com
Click at Dek23
Night flies who aren’t ready to end the weekend head to Dek23 for Click, a Sunday night party that tempers South Beach’s velvet-rope haughtiness with a refreshingly freestyle gay vibe. In other words, this is a cool party, and diva doorman Alan T. ensures all attitudes are checked at the door.
Dek23 is an intimate boutique lounge where you can dance. The club’s main dance floor resembles a catwalk, framed with red leather banquettes and cocktail tables. The room is styled in black and hellish red with silver and mirrored accents. In the back room, funksters mingle and keep up the easygoing, chill tone. The crowd here is mixed – some of the nightcrawlers are g-g-g-gay while others maintain a spot in the middle of the Kinsey scale. It doesn’t seem to matter. What’s most important at Click is casting a cool, festive vibe that’s still sugar-free.
Dek23, 655 Washington Ave., South Beach; 305-674-1176. dek23.com