The dynamics of being queer in Saigon might have changed for the best, but there is still a lot that is glossed over.
At the forefront of the push to make Saigon more inclusive and a safer place for the LGBT+ community are the owners of the city’s clubs and bars who are committed to providing inclusive public spaces for queer and non-binary people.
In celebration of Pride Month, Vietcetera rounds up Saigon’s night time venues where all people, regardless of their sexual preferences and gender identity, feel safe and at home.
Casablanca Restolounge n' Bar
Though most Casablanca regulars never extend their sojourn past dinner hours, the venue’s queer patrons will attest that calling it a night early is a mistake. Hidden away on the second floor of the establishment is the Casablanca Bar — a grungy and chic den that only starts drawing a cheery crowd after sunfall. An intimate counter with a mere dozen seats; a backdrop of moody, hypnotic jazz; the full gamut of cocktails — Casablanca Bar is the perfect choice for a tasteful first date or a lighthearted night out with close friends.
Famously recognized by the LGBT+ community, Casablanca is also a recurrent sponsor of drag show events — primarily those hosted by Gender Funk. Beyond committing to ensuring that its establishment is a safe place for LGBT+ members, Casablanca also goes out of its way to financially support LGBT+ dedicated spaces across Saigon.
Address: 54 Lê Thánh Tôn, District 1
Whiskey & Wares De Tham
Far removed tonally (if not geographically) from the buzzing clubs on Bui Vien street, Whiskey & Wares on De Tham Street is an intimate and cozy destination for whiskey aficionados. Though not a gay establishment per se, the bar is certainly LGBT+ friendly with genial staff and frequent queer bar-hoppers. While on the small side, the place doesn’t feel cramped, and regulars attest that what the bar lacks in size, it more than makes up for in inviting atmosphere.
Whiskey & Wares’ reputation of being a ‘gay haven' is no small deed of its owner, who are fondly appreciated by loyal queer customers for being a keen listener and a vocal supporter of the LGBT+ community.
On the beverage list are classic and signature cocktails and ‘strong pours’. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with Tamarind Whiskey Sour — a drink of choice for many a regular.
Address: 196 Đề Thám, District 1
For those looking for a more rowdy experience, Thị Bar on De Tham street is just the ticket. A frequent stop on Saigon’s LGBT+ community’s bar circuit, the establishment promises an evening of unbridled fun. The resident band knows how to pull masterful renditions of classic pop songs, while the equally talented bar team whips up great cocktails. Before long, you’ll catch yourself tapping your feet and having a jolly good time.
Rarely known by the public, Thị Bar is a long-standing gay-owned establishment. It's a treasured ‘child’ of a Vietnamese-French gay couple. As gay-owned venues are far and in between, the LGBT+ community naturally flocks to Thị Bar to show their support.
Address: 224 Đề Thám, District 1
Always buzzing with a colorful and good-natured crowd, Tipsy Unicorn is the party central of LGBT+ Saigon. With a busy program of events (there’s always a quiz night, guest DJ or live band to keep punters happy), no two visits are the same.
The biggest draw, however, is Tipsy Unicorn’s weekly Sunday Drag Queen Bingo — an invitation for the queer folks to be as camp and rowdy as they want to. Most importantly, it’s an invitation to be themselves.
Address: 37 Đề Thám, District 1
For creative music gigs and live performances, keep an eye out for the regular events hosted by Gender Funk. Known for their take-overs of the hottest clubs in town, Gender Funk is committed to creating events that provide safe spaces for all people to express their gender and sexuality. As it happens, Gender Funk’s biggest drag show to date is happening at the Hard Rock Cafe this weekend, and people of all sexuality and gender identity are welcome. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn to appreciate the art of drag.