Famous for its historic sites, bay-front location, vintage buildings with wrought-iron balconies, and one of the nation's most popular Mardi Gras celebrations, the southern Alabama city of Mobile has a small but very fun gay nightlife district. Most of the city's LGBT bars are in the heart of downtown, steps from the moss-draped live oak trees of Bienville Square and the acclaimed Saenger Theatre.
The scene here is considerably more discreet than in New Orleans, but charming Mobile does make for a very fun weekend getaway.
Bars and Clubs
There are three gay bars in downtown Mobile, all of them around the block of Conti Street from Joachim to Conception streets. Due to the limited number of bars, all three cater to both gay men and lesbians, with certain nights or events focused on one group over the other.
B-Bob's Downtown has been a staple of gay nightlife in Mobile since 1992. The first floor is more intimate and conversation-friendly, perfect for dates or friends who want to chat over a drink. Once you head upstairs, get ready for dancing, drag shows, and DJs on Mobile's biggest dance floor. Drag artists—both local and renowned—perform every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Other weekly activities include bingo and a female impersonation contest. Patrons are permitted to smoke inside the bar.
Around the corner from B-Bob's—and by the same owners—is Flip Side Bar and Patio. Flip Side attracts much of the same crowd as its sister bar, but with its own lineup of events. The most popular activity at Flip Side is undoubtedly karaoke, which happens three times a week. When the weather isn't too cold or muggy, the outdoor patio is an unbeatable spot.
Continue around the block and you'll come across the final gay bar in central Mobile, Gabriel's Downtown. Gabriel's is a private club, meaning they're able to serve liquor later than at public establishments, but also that you must be a member (or guest of a member) to enter. This lively bar has a friendly staff, plus a few feline mascots rescued by the human employees. Gabriel's is fun for karaoke, socializing around the cozy bar, and shooting pool. On Saturday nights, the foliage-covered patio is the place to be.
About 10 minutes outside of downtown, Midtown Pub is the other gay bar in Mobile. With plenty of parking, pinball machines, pool tables, a decent-sized dance floor, and an everybody-knows-your-name kind of vibe, this is an easy place for newcomers to fit in. Sunday's karaoke nights are fun, and every night you can count on a couple of drink specials. The crowd is eclectic and friendly.
If you're out drinking downtown, grab some traditional Southern fare at Mobile landmark Wintzell's Oyster House. Just a few blocks down from the bars, Wintzell's is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Although they are famous for their eponymous oysters, if you're out at night you're likely looking for something fried and savory, and Wintzell's jerk chicken tater tots, fried okra, or sweet potato fries are a perfect way to re-energize before heading off to the dance floors.
Alabama normally isn't the first place that comes to mind for gay and lesbian festivals, but Mobile hosts two major events that involve the LGBT community each year.
The first and most important is Mobile Pride, which takes place in October. Many of the local drag queens you can see weekly at B-Bob's come out for a special Pride celebration performance. Other members of the community also take part, including a performance by local officers from the Mobile Police Department.
The second event isn't explicitly geared toward the LGBT community, but Mardi Gras is an annual event each February that attracts many gay and lesbian participants as well. While less well-known than the massive festival that takes place in New Orleans, Mobile is actually the birthplace of U.S. Mardi Gras. The first festival was held in the city in 1703.
Tips for Going Out in Mobile
- It is legal to smoke inside bars in Alabama, but individual bars may prohibit it. Check beforehand if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke.
- Bars in Mobile close down at 2 p.m.
- It is illegal to have an open container of alcohol on the street.
- Even though Mobile was named one of Alabama's most gay-friendly cities, it is still far more conservative than other major American cities. LGBT travelers should take extra precautions when going out in Mobile.