Truly, bravo to the past and present, audacious owners of the first Lesbian cafes, bars and clubs in their countries. It's been so hard to try and record a very rough timeline of possibly some of the first lesbian bars / clubs worldwide. Please forgive any errors, as sadly there is so little information regarding the history of Lesbian bars and clubs. I just found the idea interesting to see which countries were trailblazers in lesbian club culture and which countries are still sadly facing homophobia. Please do email me, if you have any info and images so I can update this page.
Historically and sadly even now, it would have taken/ takes HUGE courage to open a Lesbian cafe, bar or club. These sweet owners offered a sanctuary and a safe environment to "be yourself", have fun and possibly find L.O.V.E. So far, the earliest lesbian club I have discovered, dates back to Damenklub Violetta in 1926 Berlin, BUT... for gay boys for example Margaret Clap (known as "Mother Clap"), ran from 1724 to 1726 (in Holborn, London) a... "coffee house" / "Molly House" which was primarily frequented by gay men.
Yet, for both gay girls and boys, the progressing gay bar and club scene during the early 1930s was set back by
the rise of the Nazis and their invasion of countries and closing down of gay venues - the least of their atrocities. Post war/ the sixties there was a resurrection in the gay club scene - but in some countries like the uK male homosexulaity was illegal while lesbianism wasn't. In the 2020s, guttingly, Lesbian cafes, bars and clubs are dwindling to near extinction. Take for example America - in the 1980s there were an estimated 200 lesbian bars across America. In 2021 lesbianbarproject.com reported only 21 lesbian bars trading in the USA. For the uK check out BBC interviewing lesbian bar managers during Lesbian Visibility Week 2021. Why are Lesbian bars and clubs closing? Partly due to ongoing homophobia, illegality certain countries, but, also gentrification which brings in raised rates, SHITE COVID and... Lesbian dating apps.
Stuff swiping-dating apps! I so miss hanging out with a sweet posse in Lesbian bars and clubs, goofy (yet, cooly) indie dancing to some fab indie/pop (particularly with my gay fab boyfriend - Baroque Boy), meeting friends-of-friends, and, a skip-a-heart-beat glance across the bar/ dancefloor. A special shout-out to: Edinburgh's CC Blooms, London's Ace of Clubs, Milano's il Sottomarino Giallo, Soho's Ghetto and The Readers Wifes DJs.
The Future: do you really want to find lesbian L.O.V.E only via a swiping dating app (skim a profile pic, in a blink-of-an-eye & heart or dismiss) and, see the demise of Lesbian cafes, bars and clubs? Or go to hetty clubs / bars and, suss out / click the chick who you thnk might be cake (gay)? Do you really not, miss lesbian venues?
I salute the courageous trailblazing, slick owners and those still continuing their Lesbian cafes, bars and clubs, perhaps through testing homophobic and financial times. Please don't let them disappear. AND, if you can and it's safe - open new ones! Lesbian cafes, bars and clubs not only offer the opportunity to find L.O.V.E but friends, dance to fab music with like minded souls and, support the community.
P.S Check out First Lesbian Magazines Worldwide or Fancy a queer quiz?
1926 – 1933
Germany's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Damenklub Violetta Nightclub, Berlin
Historically, Damenklub Violetta is considered as one of the first documented lesbian bars / clubs in the world and was the most popular and famous lesbian clubs in Berlin which reportedly had 400 members. It hosted dances and balls such as the "Calling-Card Ladies' Ball" (Damenball mit Saalpost) and the "Dance Roulette" (Roulette-Tanz)... more
Owner / Landlady of Damenklub Violetta Nightclub: Lotte Hahm
Address: Hasenheide 52 -53, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany
1920s – 1940s
France's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Le Monocle Nightclub, Paris
Le Monocle, was one of the first and most famous lesbian nightclubs in Paris. During Paris's Jazz Age, sporting a monocle had become something of a lesbian "flag" thus the club's staff suavely wore Tuxedos and monocles. Le Monocle was forced to close during the German occupation in WWII. After the war, it re-opened for a while in Montparnasse... more
Owner / Landlady of Le Monocle Nightclub: Lulu de Montparnasse
Address: 12 Rue du Champ de l'Alouette, Paris, France
1927 – 1982
Netherlands's First Gay Bar / Club - Café 't Mandje, Amsterdam
In a time when homosexuality was illegal in the Netherlands. Café 't Mandje ("little basket") was one of the first LGBT friendly pubs where gays and lesbians could hang out as long as there was no kissing which would have violated the vice laws and the liquor license suspended. A light was installed in a plaster owl, which was lit to... more
First Owner / Landlady of Café 't Mandje: Bet van Beeren
Address: Zeedijk 63, Amsterdam, Netherlands
1931 - 1985
UK's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Gateways Club, London
Though Gateways opened in the 1930s as a hetty club, during WWII it became lesbian friendly and only became an exclusively lesbian club from 1967 onwards. Clientele would be let in the green door by using a secret code at the door! Only 35ft long, the smokey windowless cellar-like room featured a bar at one end, a jukebox opposite the bar and... more
First Owners of Gateways Club: Ted & Gina Ware
Address: 239 King's Road, Chelsea, London, UK
1936 - mid 1950s?
America's First Lesbian Bar / Club - 440 Club, San Francisco
The 440 Club was a place for "Cocktailing, Dancing, and Dining" and "where girls can be boys." Female waiters and performers wore tuxedos and patrons dressed their roles. Another big draw was their in house entertainment with bi and lesbian performers who included Gladys Bentley, Moms Mabley, Frances Faye... more
First Owners of 440 Club: Mona Sargeant & Charlie Murray - 1941 managed by Babe Scott.
Address: 440 Broadway Street, San Francisco, USA
1969 – 1983?
Canada's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Baby Face Nightclub, Montreal
Baby Face Disco is credited as being Montreal's first lesbian-only bar. The venue was equipped with a jukebox, a small dance-floor and strobe lights. With only a few tables, customers could stand or walk around making it easy to meet new gals... more
First Owner / Landlady of Baby Face Nightclub: Denise "Babyface" Cassidy
Address: 1235, boul. Dorchester, Montreal, Canada
Lesbos's First Lesbian Bar / Club - The Tenth Muse Cafe Bar, Lesbos
Every Lesbian should know that Sappho came from the island of Lesvos / Lesbos - and birth village is Eresos. In the 1970s, lesbians flocked to Lesbos and it has been estimated that 3,000 - 4,000 gay women now visit Eresos every summer, which inflates Eresos population of circa 1,500 full-time residents! For all the hype... more
First Owner / Landlady of The Tenth Muse Cafe Bar: ?
Address: Eresos, Lesbos
1973 – ?
Japan's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Kikōshi Bar, Tokyo
Kikōshi Bar ("young noble") is credited as being Japan's first onabe bar which opened in 1973. In Japan, "onabe" is slang for a "masculine lesbian" but in these times it is considered an offensive term. Alas, no further info on Kikōshi :(
First Owner / Landlady of Kikōshi Bar: ?
Address: Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
1975 - ?
Spain's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Daniel's (Women-only Bar), Barcelona
Daniel's Bar Barcelona was one of the first lesbian / women-only bars in Spain and was opened shortly after, dictator, Caudillo Franco's death in 1975. To avoid high tax rates, Daniel's Bar was originally opened as a non-profit association, so to gain entrance, patrons had to... more
First Owner / Landlady of Daniel's Barcelona (Women-only Bar): María del Carmen Tobar
Address: Plaza de Cardona 7–8, Barcelona, Spain
1979 - 1982
Australia's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Ruby Red's Lesbian Bar, Sydney
Ruby Red's Lesbian Bar is credited with being Sydney's first girls-only lesbian bar / club. Entry was up a very thin stairwell, with a bar straight ahead, a classic D.I.S.C.O area with a changing coloured dance floor, strobe lights and mirror balls, and another bar out the back... more
First Owner / Landlady of Ruby Red Bar Sydney: Dawn O'Donnell and Roger Claude Tesseydre
Address: 273 Crown Street, Sydney, Australia
1985 - ?
Italy's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Il Sottomarino Giallo NightClub, Milano
Most likely Il Sottomarino Giallo NightClub Milano (Via Donatello) is not Italy's FIRST Lesbian nightclub but I admit I am V. biased here, as I went to Il Sottomarino Giallo, every Saturday night for two years, in the late 90's. After a fun night at L'Elephant, I would say good night to my lovely gay boyfriends and we would part ways to our "own" Disco's, I to Il Sottomarino Giallo & my boys to... more
First Owner / Landlady of Sottomarino Giallo NightClub Milano: ?
Address: Behind San Babila, Milano, Italy
1990 - present
The World's First Lesbian Cruises
In 1990, Olivia Travel was founded by Judy Dlugacz and remains the only company in the world offering cruises catering just to lesbians and LGBTQ+ women. Olivia Travel has produced well over 300 trips for more than 350,000 women. Onboard performers have included:... more
Founder of Olivia Travel: Judy Dlugacz
1996 - ?
South Korea's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Legacy Lesbian Bar, Seoul
Legacy Lesbian Bar is reportedly South Korea's first and oldest lesbian bar which Kim Myung-woo, a lesbian activist, opened with a friend. At first, Legacy Lesbian Bar was located in the basement of an old building in Gongduk-dong. Later, it moved to Sinchon, a neighborhood that... more
First Owner / Landlady Legacy Lesbian Bar, South Korea: Kim Myung-woo
Address: Sinchon, Seoul, South Korea
1998 - 2008
Isreal's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Minerva Lesbian Bar, Tel Aviv
Minerva Lesbian Bar was Israel's first bar for women and the most popular lesbian bar in Tel Aviv. The three founders wanted to create a place with style, open every day and designated for lesbian women. Upstairs there was a bar, downstairs an art gallery and a bookstore... more
First Owner / Landlady Minerva Lesbian Bar, Tel Aviv: Ariella Landa, Dalia Shelef & ?
Address: 98 Allenby Street, Tel Aviv, Israel
Late summer 2006 - January 2007
Lebanon's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Coup d'Etat Lesbian Bar, Beirut
The Middle East's first openly lesbian bar, Coup d'Etat, was launched quietly in Beirut, Lebanon, shortly after an internationally-brokered ceasefire ended a month-long war between Israel and the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah in 2006. Coup d'Etat Lesbian Bar (not to be confused with Coop d'Etat) was a tiny bar in Hamra, Beirut comprising two benches across from each other for seating... more
First Owner / Landlady of Coup d'Etat Lesbian Bar, Lebanon: Raed Habib
Address: Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon
2006 - ?
Turkey's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Bigudi Club, Istanbul
Bigudi Club was the first ever exclusively lesbian venue opened in Turkey. Over the years, Bigudi Club has been closed down, re-opened and changed location several times. I couldn't find much info about Bigudi Club :(
First Owner / Landlady of Bigudi Club, Istanbul: ?
Address: Istanbul, Turkey
? - ?
Russia's First Lesbian Bar / Club - Tri El Lesbian Club, St. Petersburg
Tri El Club, is / was St Petersburg's oldest and largest lesbian club. Open Wednesdays and Friday through to Sunday club Tri El has / had two bars, a large dancefloor, a stage where talent shows performed, and a cordoned-off VIP area. Men were allowed in, if... more
First Owner / Landlady of Tri El Lesbian Club: ?
Address: 107 – 109 Moskovsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg, Russia
1980 - 2023
Lesbian bars in the United States
In the 1980s, there were roughly 200 Lesbian Bars in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 21. As these lesbian bars disappear, filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street established The Lesbian Bar Project to celebrate, support, and amplify the remaining Lesbian bars.