American Sociological Association

Are Gay Bars Closing? Using Business Listings to Infer Rates of Gay Bar Closure in the United States, 1977–2019

Widespread alarm over gay bar closures in the United States has occurred in a vacuum of data. This visualization depicts changes in gay bar listings from the only national guidebook of LGBT places, published annually between 1964 and 2017 and again (and finally) in 2019. Trends in gay bar listings support perceptions of recent gay bar decline. They showed their largest five-year decline between 2012 and 2017, losing 18.6 percent. An additional 14.4 percent of bar listings disappeared in from 2017 to 2019. The listings at greatest risk receive little attention: Between 2007 and 2019, when all bar listings declined by 36.6 percent, lesbian bar listings shed 51.6 percent, cruisy men’s bar listings declined by 59.3 percent, and listings for bars serving people of color declined by 59.3 percent. The largest change in bar types, those serving gay men and women together, became the largest single category between 1997 and 2017. Caution must be exercised, however, in inferring rates of bar closure from bar listings.


Greggor Mattson